Patient Education/ Common Oral Problems/ Bad Breath

Bad Breath (Halitosis)

Bad Breath

Do you have Bad Breath??

Bad breath or Halitosis, is unpleasant odour of the mouth which can be very embarrassing. It may be caused by poor oral hygiene, by food that a person eats, certain medical conditions or other factors.
According to the causes, bad breath may be occasional or it can be a chronic condition.

What are the causes of bad breath?

The most common causes of bad breath are:
  • Morning breath: At night bacteria multiply in the mouth, causing bad breath and thus the early morning breath is bad.
  • Food: Certain food with strong odours like garlic, onions, fish, beverages such as coffee, some cheeses, etc. affect the breath when a person exhales. These foods may also cause stomach upset and belching, which contribute to bad breath & odour. Food that gets stuck in between the teeth, promote growth of bacteria, resulting in bad breath.
  • Poor oral hygiene: When a person does not brush or floss regularly, food gets stuck in between the teeth, promoting growth of bacteria giving a foul odour.
    Poor oral care can also lead to plaque buildup in the mouth causing bad breath.
  • Tobacco products and Alcohol: Smoking, chewing tobacco and alcohol consumption are known to cause bad breath. These have a distinct smell.

Other factors contributing to bad breath are:
  • Dental problems: Unfilled cavities or gum disease lead to accumulation of food promoting the growth of bacteria leading to bad breath.
  • Dental appliances: Dentures or braces, can contribute to bad breath. This is because of poor oral hygiene where food particles are not properly cleansed from the appliances. Ill fitting dentures can contribute to sores and infections in the mouth, causing bad breath.
  • Dry mouth also called Xerostomia can cause bad breath. Saliva helps to clean and moisten the mouth and removes odour-causing particles. When the body does not produce enough saliva, bad breath may result. Dry mouth may be caused as a result of mouth breathing.It may also be caused by salivary gland problems, connective tissue disorders (Sjögren's syndrome) or medications.
  • Oral infections: Gum and periodontal disease, abscess, cavities or impacted teeth may also result in bad breath.
  • Health problems: Certain medical conditions like throat infection, respiratory tract infection, sinusitis, bronchitis, diabetes, acid reflux, lactose intolerance and other stomach problems, some liver or kidney diseases can cause bad breath.
  • Medications: Certain medications like antihistamines, diuretics, insulin shots, triamterene (Dyrenium), etc. can cause bad breath.

How can I prevent Bad breath?

  • Maintain good oral hygiene:
  • This is the easiest way to prevent bad breath.
  • Brushing twice daily helps destroy the bacteria and protects your teeth against germs.
  • Regular cleaning of tongue helps removal of germs that harbour on the tongue and is important for good oral hygiene as is brushing of teeth.
  • Flossing helps removal of food particles trapped between the teeth.Hence regular flossing is important for ensuring that bacteria do not thrive on food stuck in between the teeth thus preventing bad breath or interdental caries.Toothbrush bristles are not effective to clean interdental spaces.
  • Drinking water helps wash away food remains and bacteria from the mouth and hence prevent bad breath.
  • Use of chewing gums, breath mints, refreshing mouthwashes, strips or sprays helps keep bad breath away temporarily.
  • Quit smoking, use of tobacco products and avoiding certain foods helps to eliminate bad breath

If bad breath persists than it is advisable to consult your Dentist for a thorough examination. He may refer you to your General Physician if there is any underlying medical condition. Regular cleaning by a Dentist (Scaling and polishing) can go a long way in reducing bad breath. Any unfilled cavities should be filled. Regular Tongue cleaning helps to reduce bad breath.


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