Written by Danica Lacson on September 28, 2018
What is Bad Breath?
Halitosis, commonly identified as bad breath, is an unpleasant odor emanating from the mouth as a result of particular food consumption, poor oral health habits, alcohol or tobacco use, dry mouth, or a medical condition.
Bad breath can cause anxiety and self-consciousness. It can also lead to bullying and alienation from peers. Aside from the social implications posed by this condition, it is also a signal that your dental health (or general health) is not in its best shape.
To address the issue, look into the root of it. Identifying the cause of your bad breath will direct you to the proper treatment you must employ.
What causes Bad Breath?
Bad breath can develop due to various reasons including the type of food you eat, the use of tobacco products, poor dental hygiene, dry mouth, among others.
Poor Oral Hygiene
Poor oral hygiene can cause the bacterial film or plaque that naturally occurs in the mouth to build up if not regularly removed, leading to the bacteria in plaque to give off an odor that affects the breath.
Oral Health Conditions and Infections
Oral conditions like gum disease, cavities and other infections in the mouth may also contribute to the occurrence of bad breath.
Infections in the nose, throat, or lungs, diabetes, liver disease, chronic bronchitis, disturbances in the digestive system, chronic sinusitis or postnasal drip can also produce bad breath as a byproduct.
Food particles gathering on the tongue’s surface, along the gum tissue surrounding the teeth, and between the teeth can lead to bad breath as naturally occurring bacteria in the mouth break down these food particles and produce compounds called volatile sulfur compounds (VSCs) that release a foul odor.
Saliva aids in sweeping away food particles from the mouth.
A lack of saliva increases the likelihood of dry mouth which can cause bad breath, especially in the morning as saliva production goes down during sleep.
A dry mouth allows the growth and production of VSCs like hydrogen sulfide and methyl mercaptan.
If you are suffering from morning breath, it may be due to your sleeping habits. Sleeping habits can also affect the intensity and frequency of morning breath.
Because saliva production naturally slows down during sleep, sleeping with an open mouth can cause the mouth to get even drier, letting breath-causing bacteria to flourish.
Aside from an open mouth, snoring or breathing through the mouth at night also increases the likelihood of halitosis.
How can I beat and prevent Bad Breath?
- Watch what you eat. A healthy diet is vital for our overall health. Consuming the right foods will be helpful in keeping our oral health in check as the mouth is an entryway and the start of the breaking down process.
- Be careful in eating onion and garlic. Garlic and onion from the allium family of vegetables contain sulfur compounds that provide health benefits such as fighting infections, cancer, and heart disease. However, the same compounds produce strong odors that can linger in the mouth and cause bad breath. Take caution in eating garlic and onion especially when you have to speak afterward.
- Stay hydrated. Keeping ourselves hydrated is important to avoid having a dry mouth that can lead to halitosis. Water also washes away food particles that may have been stuck between the teeth, rinsing out the bacteria that can cause tooth decay and bad breath.
- Brush your teeth. The most basic step in preventing halitosis is to brush your teeth. Brushing prevents the accumulation plaque which causes bad breath. Brush your teeth at least twice a day for two minutes each session.
- Clean your tongue. If you are brushing your teeth at least twice a day, you are doing a good job. However, dental professionals recommend extending brushing to the tongue. Bacteria can linger, breed on your tongue’s surface, transfer to your teeth, and result in cavities and bad breath.
- Floss and rinse with mouthwash. For optimal mouth cleaning, floss and rinse along with brushing the teeth and tongue. Dentists suggest the use of dental floss or an interdental cleaner to remove food particles and plaque that brushing did not reach. Rinsing with mouthwash also helps in clearing away bacteria that brushing and flossing might have missed.
- Quit smoking and limit alcohol intake. Smoking and drinking alcohol dry the mouth, resulting in the lack of saliva. Saliva is vital to our oral health as it helps wash away bacteria.
- Moisten your mouth. Stimulate saliva production by chewing sugar-free gum. You can also snack on cheese, apple, citrus, and spices. These foods increase salivation by stimulating the activity of the salivary glands and moisturizing the mouth.
- Consult your dentist. Determining the root cause of your bad breath will be helpful in addressing it. Tap your dentist for recommendations on how to solve halitosis and the treatment available to do so. Visiting the dentists at least twice a year is necessary to prevent the worsening cases of dental problems that can lead to bad breath. Also, dental cleaning is important to tackle bacteria and plaque that regular oral hygiene may have missed.
Disclaimer: The oral health information published on this web page is solely intended for educational purposes. Hawaii Family Dental strongly recommends to always consult licensed dentists or other qualified health care professionals for any questions concerning your oral health.