Halitosis (Bad Breath), can result from poor dental health habits and may be a sign of other health problems. Bad breath can also be made worse by the types of foods you eat and other unhealthy lifestyle habits. Bad breath or Halitosis is a symptom in which a noticeably unpleasant odor is present on the exhaled breath.
“Let not the breath of your mouth be sour and unpleasing, nor… offend the nose.” Sound like something you might say to a spouse, friend or coworker? Actually, that sentiment was written more than 2,000 years ago by the Greek poet Ovid, clearly demonstrating that the offensive odor of bad breath has been a problem plaguing humankind for quite some time.
What Causes Bad Breath?
Cause No. 1: Poor Oral Hygiene
Bad breath can also be caused by bacteria that feed off of food particles and other debris that sticks to teeth, dental braces or dentures. If you don’t brush and floss teeth daily, food particles can remain in your mouth, promoting bacterial growth between teeth, around the gums, and on the tongue.
Cause No. 2: Dental and other oral problems
• Deep carious lesions (dental decay) – which cause localized food impaction and stagnation
• Interdental food packing – (food getting pushed down between teeth) – this can be caused by missing teeth, tilted, spaced or crowded teeth, or poorly contoured proximal dental fillings. Food debris becomes trapped, undergoes slow bacterial putrefaction and release of malodorous volatiles. Food packing can also cause a localized periodontal reaction, characterized by dental pain that is relieved by cleaning the area of food packing with interdental brush or floss.
• Acrylic dentures (plastic false teeth).
• The most common location for mouth related halitosis is the tongue. There is presence of halitosis-producing bacteria on the back of the tongue, so tongue cleaning should be a part of everyday routine.
• Oral infections: Oral based lesions caused by viral infections like Herpes Simplex and HPV may also contribute to bad breath.
• Gums Problem: Persistent bad breath or a bad taste in the mouth may be a warning sign of gum (Gingivitis and periodontitis) disease. Gum disease is caused by the buildup of plaque on teeth. Bacteria cause the formation of toxins to form, which irritate the gums. If gum disease continues untreated, it can damage the gums and jawbone.
• Oral Ulceration
The medical condition dry mouth (also called Xerostomia) also can cause bad breath. Saliva is necessary to moisten the mouth, neutralize acids produced by plaque, and wash away dead cells that accumulate on the tongue, gums, and cheeks. If not removed, these cells decompose and can cause bad breath (Halitosis).
What Causes Dry Mouth?
Dry mouth may be a side effect of various medications, salivary gland problems, or continuous breathing through the mouth. Often medications can cause Xerostomia (dry mouth) which results in increased microbial growth in the mouth. Another cause of bad breath are salivary stones blocking the salivary glands.
Cause No. 3: Nose and Sinuses
The other major source of bad breath is the nose. In this occurrence, the air exiting the nostrils has a pungent odor that differs from the oral odor. Nasal odor may be due to sinus infections or foreign bodies. Halitosis is often stated to be a symptom of chronic rhino sinusitis.
Cause No. 4: Tonsils
Tonsils are the other significant cause of halitosis after the oral problems. Some conditions of the tonsils which may be associated with halitosis include chronic caseous tonsillitis, tonsillolithiasis (tonsil stones), and Abscess.
Cause No. 5: Stomach Problems
Various stomach related problems or conditions can lead to bad breath (Halitosis).
Cause No. 6: Food Stuff
Volatile foodstuffs – e.g. onion, garlic, durian, cabbage, cauliflower and radish. Volatile foodstuffs may leave malodorous residues in the mouth, which are the subject to bacterial putrefaction and VSC release. However, volatile foodstuffs may also cause halitosis via the blood borne halitosis mechanism.
If you eat foods with strong odors (such as garlic or onions), brushing and flossing — even mouthwash — merely covers up the odor temporarily. The odor will not go away completely until the foods have passed through your body. Once you begin to digest them, their odor-causing chemicals are absorbed into your blood stream. As they travel through your circulatory system, they may be transferred to your lungs and become detectable in your breath. When this happens, you may be stuck with an unfortunate odor for two days no matter how often you use your toothbrush!
High Protein Diet when digested produces by-product of ammonia, which, among other places in the body, is released in your breath Eating this way on a regular basis a (high-protein diet), for example — requires your body to constantly excrete these by-products, as well as molecules called ketones, which can cause Bad breath.
Fasting for prolonged periods of time or intermittent fasting can also result in bad breath.
Cause No. 7: Smoking
If you smoke, bad breath is one of many health concerns that may affect your decision to quit. Since smoking can cause vitamin C deficiency, which could be contributing to your bad breath. Smoking is linked with Periodontitis (Gum Disease), which is the second most common cause of oral malodor. Smoking also has many other negative effects on the mouth, from increased rates of dental decay to premalignant lesions and even oral cancer.
Cause No. 8: Alcohol Consumption
Alcohol Consumption leads to dehydration and bad breath (halitosis). Many brands of mouthwash and antibacterial mouth rinse contain alcohol — sometimes accounting for as much as 27 percent of total ingredients — that dries out your mouth, leaving a stale smell after the minty freshness wears off in an hour or so. Look for brands with no or little alcohol and save them for first dates or job interviews (or when recommended by a doctor).
Cause No. 9: Stress or Anxiety
Your heart is pounding, your palms are sweating, you’re practically panting with stress — and your mouth is probably not smelling that great (argh, dry mouth again!). Stress can aggravate other metabolic disorders, life style diseases and even lead to excessive smoking and alcohol consumption which can cause Bad Breath (Halitosis).
Cause No. 10: Dementia and Bad breath
It is because of not being able to look after themselves that someone who has dementia develops bad breath. The person loses the ability to clean their teeth, or loses interest in doing so, and carers may need to take over this task.
Cause No. 11: Systemic Diseases
Various systemic diseases can lead to bad breath such as:
• Lower respiratory tract infections (bronchial and lung infections).
• Kidney problems
• Trimethylaminuria (“fish odor syndrome”) etc.
Cause No. 12: Menstruation
Menstrual cycle – at mid cycle and during menstruation, increased breath volatile sulfur compounds were reported in women leading to Halitosis.
Who Treats Bad Breath (Halitosis) ?
In most cases, your dentist can treat the cause of bad breath. If your dentist determines that your mouth is healthy and the odor is not of oral origin, you may be referred to your family doctor or to a specialist to determine the odor source and treatment plan. If the odor is due to gum disease, for example, your dentist can either treat the disease or refer you to a periodontist, a dentist who specializes in treating gum conditions.
Bad Breath (Halitosis) Cures
1. Keep a clean mouth. Brush your teeth and gums when you get up in the morning, after meals and before you go to bed at night, and don’t forget to use floss to remove food particles that are lodged between teeth. Even tiny particles can provide a food source for bacteria which release sulfurous compounds that cause bad breath. Don’t forget to brush or scrape your tongue too.
Dental research has concluded that a tongue scraper is more effective at removing toxins and bacteria from the tongue than a toothbrush. Although brushing and flossing will loosen and move debris around, they do not actually remove the bacteria. Almost half of our oral bacteria live on and in the deep crevices of our tongue; the scraping action of a tongue scraper collects these toxic tongue coatings (which can range in color from clear, white, yellow, or green) and removes them from the body.
Ergonomic tongue scrappers are shaped in accordance with the anatomy of the tongue, and are optimized to lift and trap the plaque coating and effectively clean the surface of the tongue. There are many different types of tongue cleaners; they are made from plastic, metal or other materials. Their effectiveness varies widely depending on the shape, dimensions, configuration, quality of the contact surfaces and materials used. In addition, tongue cleaning gels used in association with the tongue cleaners as antibacterial agents may enhance cleaning effects.
2. Consider using a mouthwash that contains essential oils. Essential oils are derived from plants, and some oils like tea tree have antibacterial properties that can help you battle bad breath( Halitosis) naturally. Other options to consider: peppermint and lemon oils. Many health food stores offer mouthwashes and other dental products featuring essential oils as an active ingredient.
Avoid alcohol based mouthwashes.
3. 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, and thereby help to reduce bad breath. Chewing may help particularly when the mouth is dry, or when one cannot perform oral hygiene procedures after meals (especially those meals rich in protein). This aids in provision of saliva, which washes away oral bacteria, has antibacterial properties and promotes mechanical activity which helps cleanse the mouth. Some chewing gums contain special anti-odor ingredients. Chewing on fennel seeds, cinnamon sticks, mastic gum, or fresh parsley are common household remedies.
4. Get rid of stress. Studies have shown that stress can increase the volatile sulfur compounds (VSCs) that are one of the root causes of smelly breath. (1) Yoga, meditation and mindful breathing are good options to reduce stress and promote better oral and overall health.
5. Cut down on Smoking and Alcohol consumption.
6. Drink green or black tea. Both black and green tea contain powerful plant-derived antioxidants called polyphenols that have been shown to decrease the sulfur compounds that cause breath to smell bad as well as destroy other harmful compounds that can cause tooth decay and gum disease. Added bonus: Drinking tea has also been linked with a decreased risk for both heart disease and cancer.
7. Maintain general health, If you have any systemic problem like Diabetes, it should be kept under control.