Halitosis is also known as bad breath or mouth odour, what is it and what can you do about it?



Are you wondering why your family, colleagues etc, have been giving you more personal space than you need, or are always wanting to discuss every matter over the phone???
Why you get those mysterious gifts of toothpaste even when it’s not your birthday?
Well, the best guess is you’ve got halitosis… But don’t be sad, it’s no death sentence.

Many people have bad breath. It could last for a short or long time. It is estimated that up to 50% of people have smelly mouth all the time. Even with regular brush and floss, halitosis can occur. In fact in most cases, bad breath is caused by the gums and tongue – not the teeth!

What causes bad breath?
Bad breath can have several causes:

A dirty mouth
90% of mouth odors come from mouth itself either from the food you eat or bacteria that’s already there, Mouth odor is like any other body odor i.e. the result of microbes living in the body giving off byproducts. In the mouth, this means bacteria that normally live in the mouth interact with food particles, blood, tissue, etc., to create volatile (i.e., stinky) sulfur compounds. If you don’t clean properly, bacteria build up and next thing you know that’s not toothpaste on your tongue.

Stinky foods
Like the popular saying, ‘Garbage in, Garbage out’, If it stinks going in, chances are it’s going to stink coming out. The common culprits are onions, garlic, alcohol and tobacco.

Low carbohydrate diet
You look great after four (4) weeks of dieting and vigorous exercise, so how come you still can’t get a date? High-protein, low-carbohydrate diets cause your body to burn stored fats for fuel instead of carbohydrates and can lead to a condition called Ketosis. When fat burns, ketones build up in the body, and some are released through breath, unfortunately they don’t smell particularly good.

It can be a sign of a more serious illness such as diabetes (as ketosis can, occur here, and the resulting bad breathe is sometimes one of first symptoms that lead to its diagnosis), infections of nose, throat or lungs, diseases of the gum, liver disease, kidney disease, gastro esophageal reflux disease (GERD) which is a backflow of acid from the stomach to the esophagus.

Dry mouth
Saliva helps flush out the mouth, keeping bacteria moving so they don’t settle down and multiply, so a dry mouth is a breeding ground for bacteria.
In rainy season, allergy medications can dry you out; and in dry season, heat tends to be the culprit.


Others causes include:
•mouth breathing
•drugs like paraldehyde

How to find out if you have bad breath:
* Ask a friend as “Only your true friend will tell you, your mouth is smelling”
* A simple test you can do yourself is to lick the inside of your wrist and wait for the saliva to dry. If the area you licked smells unpleasant, it is likely that your breath does too.

* Cover your mouth and nose with both hands, in a way that’s air tight, blow air out from your mouth, and perceive with your nose..

Remedies to restore your fresh breath:
*Gently cleaning the tongue surface twice daily is the most effective way to keep bad breath in control; using a tooth brush, tongue cleaner or tongue brush/scraper to wipe off the bacterial debris. An inverted teaspoon may also do the job.
N.B. Avoid damaging the tongue, and scraping of the V-shaped row of taste buds found at the extreme back of the tongue.

*Brushing with a small amount of antibacterial mouth rinse or tongue gel onto the tongue surface will further inhibit bacterial action.
*Eating a healthy breakfast with rough foods helps clean the very back of the tongue
*Chewing gum: Since dry-mouth can increase bacterial buildup and cause or worsen bad breath, chewing sugarless gum can help with the production of saliva which helps cleanse the mouth.. Chewing may also help when one cannot perform oral hygiene procedures after meals (especially protein-rich meals).

*Gaggling right before bedtime with an effective mouthwash. Mouthwashes may contain active ingredients that are inactivated by the soap present in most toothpaste. Thus, it is recommended not to use a mouthwash directly after tooth brushing with paste.

*Flossing which helps in removing rotting food debris and bacterial plaque from between the teeth, especially at the gum line. NOT TOOTH PICKS, as these could injure the gum

* Periodic visits to dentists ‘AT LEAST’ every 6 months. Your dentist can advise you on how to improve your oral health and can refer you for further investigation if they think there may be another cause for your bad breath, especially after ensuring that you are doing your best with your teeth care.

Bad breath is one thing that you might not notice yourself, and no one finds it easy to tell you. People will avoid you, and you can lose friends easily. It is therefore important that you look out for yourself every morning before you step out… and yes, look out for your good friends too!