Halitosis (malodor, fetor oris or simply bad breath), an unpleasant offensive odour from the mouth, is something you can’t ignore. Close associates, friends and family would certainly agree!
Halitosis affects an estimated 25-30 percent of people globally. It can cause social awkwardness and self-esteem issues leading to anxiety or depression. Many bad breathers tend to keep away from the society. It can even ruin relationships.
Could your bad breath be from poor oral hygiene, an underlying health problem, certain medications or simply from savoring food generously tossed with onion or garlic? Regardless, you can take steps to prevent and treat the condition, both at home and with the help of your dentist or physician.
What are the causes of bad breath?
Foods and beverages: What you eat and drink affect your breath. Foods are absorbed into your bloodstream and move to the lungs, affecting the air your exhale. Though brushing or using mouthwash can briefly mask the odor but halitosis persists until the offender is out of your body. Eating strong flavoured foods, such as onions, garlic, some cheese, certain fish and meat can cause your breath to smell, as can coffee, smoking and drinking a lot of alcohol.
Dry mouth: Saliva is needed to cleanse the mouth of harmful bacteria. If you don’t have enough of it, consider yourself in for bad breath.
Your mouth can get dry if you snore or sleep with your mouth open. It makes it a perfect home to harbor bacteria that cause “morning breath.” You’re more likely to snore if you sleep on your back, than on your side.
Regularly skipping meals, or fasting, can also reduce the amount of saliva in your mouth causing a “hunger breath” of sulfuric odor. Dieters eating too infrequently can experience this.
Dehydration can also lead to not-so-fresh breath.
Inflammation of the gums (gingivitis) from poor dental hygiene can also cause bad breath and a metallic taste.
Other Health issues
Your breath has an interesting ability to provide clues to your overall health. If you or your dentist can identify the type of odor in your breath, this oral-systemic-link can help signal larger health problems such as:
Upper respiratory Infections: Colds and coughs can send mucus filled with bacteria through your nose and mouth, affecting your breath. A ‘cheesy breath’ indicates a nasal origin. It usually goes away once you get over your cold.
Bad breath due to sinusitis, nasal polyp and post-nasal drip linger on as they encourage the build-up of microbes.
Lung cancer usually emits a distinct breath odor (so much so that breath is now being used in it’s early detection).
Liver disease: Liver cirrhosis may cause a breath odor similar to ‘decayed blood or rotten eggs’. Fetor hepaticus – a ‘sweet and musty’ breath points towards liver failure. You might also have other symptoms, including jaundice, due to an abnormal buildup of the naturally occuring pigment bilirubin in your system.
Gastrointestinal problems: Acid Reflux makes the stomach acid flow the wrong way, back into your food pipe. It can give your breath a ‘sour smell’ and bring up bits of food or liquid into your mouth. The acid also can damage your throat and mouth, making it a breeding ground for more smelly bacteria.
Diabetes: Diabetics suffer from inadequate insulin production, causing them to burn fat (instead of sugar) and produce ketones, and thus a ‘ketone breath’ that smells of nail paint. When ketones rise to unsafe levels (uncontrolled diabetes), you’re at risk of a dangerous condition called diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). It imparts a ‘sweet n fruity odor’ to your breath. Seek medical help immediately.
Kidney Failure: Your breath smells ‘fishy’ or ‘ammonia’ like, with a metallic taste in the mouth if your kidneys can’t get rid of waste like they should. Known as ‘uremic fetor’, the high amount of urea in the saliva and its breakdown to ammonia causes the smell. It’s most common in the last stages of kidney failure, known as end-stage renal disease (ESRD). At this point, you are put on dialysis to filter your blood or you may need a kidney transplant.
Menstruation: If temporary halitosis tends to arrive at the same time as your premenstrual syndrome (PMS), pin it down to your hormones. Researches report that women have lower saliva levels during menstruation, which may account for their bad breath.
Preventing and Treating Bad Breath
- Keep track of the foods you eat and try to:
- Avoid foods and beverages that cause bad breath.
- Eat more fruits and vegetables.
- Drink more water.
- Quit smoking. Avoid alcohol and tobacco.
- Suck on sugar-free mints or mouth-wetting lozenges if your mouth tends to get dry.
- Brush your teeth, gums, and tongue with fluoride toothpaste, preferably after each meal. Make sure to reach the gum line as well as tooth surfaces.
- Change your toothbrush every 2 to 3 months.
- Floss at least once a day.
- Rinse with an antiseptic mouthwash twice a day.
- It’s possible to carefully dislodge a tonsil stone at home with a toothbrush or cotton swab. Do not attempt to use sharp instruments. Gargling with warm saline water after you eat helps. Talk to your doctor if you get them often.
- If you wear dentures, remove them while you sleep. Brush and soak them during the night in a disinfecting solution.
- Clean braces and retainers as directed by your dentist.
When to See Your Dentist About Bad Breath?
Be sure to see your dentist at least twice a year for regular checkups and professional cleaning. Your dentist can spot and treat your tooth and gum diseases – the major culprits of bad breath.
If changes you make don’t help, the dentist may refer you to a doctor to see whether an underlying health problem could be causing the bad breath.
You can also go over the list of your medications with the doctor to see if any of them could be contributing to the problem.
If you chew tobacco, get guidance from your doctor on ways to kick the habit.
Homoeopathy For Bad Breath
Note :: Homoeopathy offers a permanent remedy for Bad Breath, is non-toxic and can be used by anyone including infants and pregnant and nursing women.