Halitosis itself may not be life threatening, but it could be the symptom of a medical condition you should address for your overall health and well-being.
Let us talk about bad breath and what to do about bad breath.
Everyone tries to avoid talking about it and people who have it stop talking altogether , but bad breath is a serious issue. Seriously.
So what is bad breath?
Bad breath, some scientifically-inclined people call it fetor oris is generally a fetid odor that is present in your mouth.
This could be caused by bacterial along and below the gum line. Bacteria can also be on the back of your tongue.
To know if you have gum disease or tooth decay, please see your dentist.
If your dentist does not see any dental problems, then you may be suffering from other conditions that could give you bad breath like:
- esophagus, or
- nasal cavity issues.
Thankfully, halitosis is not always a sign of a serious medical problem.
Simple health habits such as proper brushing and flossing of teeth, plus scraping the back of your tongue to remove odor-causing bacteria can stop halitosis.
Bad breath is a social problem.
Bad breath makes you fearful of going out and meeting or being around people.
It could literally turn you into a recluse!
Finding out the causes and treatments can make you say goodbye to bad breath forever!
Your Mouth Is Literally Bacteria Haven
Studies say that in over 90% of bad breath cases, the problem starts in the mouth.
It is called intra-oral halitosis or oral halitosis.
This is why.
Did you know that over 600 types of bacteria can be found in your mouth?
And did you know that they may be also breeding on the back of your tongue or beneath the gum line?
The bacteria are produced by proteins transforming into amino acids. They break into gases, causing that bad odor coming from your mouth.
Generally, the tongue is the main breeding ground for these bacteria.
But other factors like:
- faulty dental work,
- food gathering areas between and in the teeth,
- dirty dentures
- lesions caused by viral infections such as Herpes and the HPV virus
may contribute to bad breath.
Have you also noticed that you wouldn’t want to talk to anyone when you wake up in the morning because of your morning dragon breath?
When your mouth is exposed to less oxygen, like when you are sleeping, the mouth becomes moist, making it a perfect place for bacteria to grow and replicate, causing the foul odor.
When you are sleeping, the body produces less saliva to wash away food and odors.This results to a dryer mouth, making dead cells adhere to your tongue and other places in the mouth.
Can certain foods cause bad breath?
Garlic, onions, fish, cheese and meat are notorious for giving your mouth the foul smell. Smoking and alcohol are major culprits as well, but taking great care in properly brushing and flossing of your teeth using a special mouthwash can stop halitosis on its tracks.
Some people swear by this product, by the way
Other Causes of Halitosis
Halitosis isn’t life threatening and can be cured, don’t worry.
Regular dental visits and regular cleaning stops cavities and gum disease.
Dentists can also help you address dry mouth and infections which can cause bad breath.
Having a medical check-up when you have a sore or inflamed throat, sinusitis, acid reflux and respiratory infections should also be done.
And oh, don’t ignore it when the foam from your toothpaste turns pink when you are brushing!
Pink foam is caused by red or swollen gums that bleed after flossing or brushing. You may have gingivitis or a gum infection.
Sometimes, a pocket of pus or abscess forms at the gum line or in between your teeth. This may be a bacterial infection. Open sores on the gum or tongue can also cause bad breath.
Stress can also cause dry mouth.
You have dry mouth if you have difficulty speaking, swallowing foods, you feel burning in your mouth area and you have dry eyes.
A simple way to keep your mouth hydrated is to drink lots of water. You can also use sugar-free gums and mints to stimulate the salivary glands.
And oh, sometimes, we don’t know our mouth stinks, but it does!
That’s because the odor detectors in our nose can get used to the smell.
Have a family member or close friend confirm that your mouth stinks so that you can fix your embarrassing problem.
More Symptoms and Causes of Halitosis
Halitosis sometimes happen because of some medical conditions such as:
- liver or lung disease,
- acid reflux,
- sinus problems, and
- kidney disease or kidney failure.
Sore throat, fever, swollen glands in the neck area, runny or stuffy nose with yellow or green discharge, or a cough with mucus can also cause halitosis.
A doctor or a dentist can also determine your medical issues by the nature of your breath odor.
For instance, if your breath smells like urine, you may need to be tested for kidney disease or kidney failure.
If your breath is sort of fruity, it could be a sign of diabetes.
Acid reflux does not commonly cause halitosis, but when the contents of your stomach are brought up into the esophagus, it produces a flow of gas and odors from substances within the stomach, causing bad breath.
Chronic caseous tonsillitis is emitted from the tonsils in the form of a cheese-like substance causing inflammation and sometimes abscesses and causing the resulting halitosis.
Systemic diseases such as diabetes, carcinoma, respiratory (bronchial and lung) infections, liver failure, renal failure, trimethylaminuria (fish odor) syndrome, diabetes and certain types of metabolic conditions could cause bad breath, but are rare occurrences in the general population.
Only a small section of the adult population may suffer from a condition called delusional halitosis. This is a condition where the person affected thinks he has bad breath and may even seek professional advice for it.
It’s a much exaggerated condition where the person is positive he has halitosis and his life becomes affected by it, even though those around him do not notice any sign of foul smelling breath.
Testing and Seeking Help for Halitosis
A visit to the dentist should be your first option for seeking testing and help if you suspect or know you have bad breath. The dentist will review your dental and medical history, including medications you might be taking that could cause dry mouth.
The dentist will also thoroughly examine your teeth, gums, salivary glands and the mouth condition. You’ll also be evaluated for bad breath by exhaling from your nose and mouth.
If the dentist suspects a medical issue, you’ll be referred to your family doctor – or, in some cases of gum disease – you’ll be referred to a periodontist who specializes in gum diseases.
If you see your family doctor for halitosis, he’ll likely perform tests if he suspects kidney, lung or liver disease. This may include urine or blood tests, X-rays of the sinus or chest areas and other types of testing.
When all possible medical and dental issues have been checked and ruled out, more specialized and in-depth testing is required. Specialized help is readily available in hundreds of dental offices and breath clinics which use a myriad of laboratory methods.
Science has proven that it’s difficult, if not impossible to test one’s own breath, but most are able to detect it in others. You may have a certain taste in your mouth that’s metallic or sour and suspect bad breath, but that’s usually a poor indicator for testing.Self-diagnosis may be possible by licking the back of the wrist, letting the saliva dry for a couple of minutes and then sniffing the results, but that’s not always a reliable method.
One better method would be to scrape the back of the tongue lightly with a plastic spoon and then smell the results after it dries. Swabs are now available in pharmacies which test for combinations of polyamines and sulfur, but the results may not be totally reliable.
When you’re tested by a dental office or commercial breath clinic, other testing methods are available. The halimeter is a portable monitor which tests for sulfur emissions from the mouth.
This test may not always be reliable because some food and drink can cause false readings on the device. A BANA test involves the salivary glands and tests the levels of an enzyme which indicates odor-causing bacteria.
The enzyme, galactosidase, can be tested for salivary levels and is associated with halitosis. Breath clinics use these devices, but the actual gold standard of knowing if you have halitosis is by trained experts in “organoleptic measurements” who use the sniff and score method to rate the type and level of odor involved. They commonly use an intensity scale up to six points.
What You Can Do to Prevent Bad Breath
Causes of halitosis aren’t well understood by the medical community, so you may have difficulty finding effective treatment. Some strategies on your part may be used to prevent bad breath most commonly originating from the mouth.
Cleaning the surface of the tongue twice a day can help eliminate odor-inducing bacteria and can be accomplished by using several proven strategies such as cleaning the tongue’s surface using a toothbrush or tongue scraper to eliminate the debris, bacteria and mucus.
Use some antibacterial mouthwash or tongue gel to cleanse even more efficiently and thoroughly. Chewing gum helps get rid of dry mouth which is one cause of bacteria build-up and bad breath.
Chew sugarless gum to produce more saliva and when you can’t use oral hygiene methods to clean your teeth and mouth after you eat. Some gums may also contain odor-killing ingredients such as mint.
Gargling with an effective mouthwash just before bedtime can help reduce mouth odors for hours. Some mouthwashes contain ingredients that are de-activated by the ingredients in toothpaste, so it’s best not to rinse your mouth with mouthwash just after brushing.
Consuming a healthy breakfast such as oatmeal each morning helps cleanse the back of the tongue. Try some old folk remedies such as chewing on cinnamon sticks, fresh parsley, fennel seeds and mastic gum to get rid of leftover food odors.
The probiotic treatment, Streptococcus salivarius K12, is said to prevent odorous bacterial growth in the mouth, but it hasn’t been scientifically proven. Maintaining proper and effective oral hygiene is the best way to prevent mouth-type halitosis.
Clean your tongue daily, brush and floss after meals and see your dentist periodically to prevent most causes of bad breath. If you wear dentures, make sure you clean and soak during the night in an anti-bacterial product.
If you’re into alternative medicine, you’ll find a wide range of products claiming to treat and eliminate halitosis. This includes vitamins, oral probiotics and dietary supplements and antifungal medications, which treat fungal infections.
When a halitosis problem is the result of poor dental hygiene, you’ll get immediate results when you begin to take care of your mouth properly. Regular brushing and flossing will prevent periodontal disease and abscesses of the teeth, which are major causes of halitosis.
If a medical condition is the reason for your bout with halitosis, seeking immediate care will produce good results. Such chronic conditions as sinusitis may occur frequently, but can be controlled with certain medications.
Luckily, bad breath is usually an easy fix for most people. With proper treatment and lifestyle changes you can quickly be on your way to the clean and fresh breath you desire.