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Bad Breath- Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

May 16, 2022

Anyone can suffer from bad breath and there can be many causes for the problem.

Halitosis or bad breath can be embarrassing and may even cause anxiety sometimes.

Most of the products on store shelves designed to fight bad breath like gum, mints, and mouthwashes are only temporary measures because they don’t address the main cause of the problem.

The causes of bad breath include certain foods, health conditions and certain habits.

Bad breath can be improved in many cases with regular and proper dental hygiene.

However, if self-care techniques don’t solve the problem, one must see a dentist or physician to rule out any serious condition that may be causing the bad breath.

According to some studies, bad breath is the third most common reason after tooth decay and gum disease, for people to seek dental care.

What are the Causes of Bad Breath?

Bad breath can start both inside and outside of the mouth and is generally caused by bacteria present on the teeth and debris on the tongue. 

The possible causes of Bad Breath include:

  • Food: The bacteria can increase by the breakdown of food particles in and around the teeth causing a foul odour. Certain foods, like onions, garlic and spices can also cause bad breath. After these foods are digested, they enter the bloodstream and are carried to the lungs,  affecting the breath. Other common foods that can cause bad breath are Cheese, Certain spices, Orange juice or soda and Alcohol
  • Tobacco products: The use of tobacco products and smoking cause their own type of unpleasant mouth odour, stain teeth and reduce the ability to taste foods. Smokers and oral tobacco users are also more prone to having gum disease, which is another source of bad breath.
  • Poor dental hygiene: Brushing and flossing daily is important to ensure the removal of the food particles from the mouth. These food particles can otherwise cause bad breath. A colourless, sticky film of bacteria called plaque can also form on the teeth due to improper brushing and if not brushed away, plaque can irritate the gums and ultimately irritate the gums and form plaque-filled pockets between the teeth and gums, a condition which is called gum disease or periodontitis.

Bacteria can be trapped in the tongue also, producing a bad odour. Also, Dentures that aren’t cleaned regularly or don’t fit properly can give breeding place to odour-causing bacteria and food particles.

  • Dry mouth: Saliva produced in the mouth can naturally cleanse it, removing particles that cause a bad odour. However, the mouth is dry or dry due to a specific disease, such as xerostomia, and bad breath can build up.  A problem with the salivary glands and some diseases can also cause chronic dry mouth.
  • Infections in the mouth: Surgical wounds after oral surgery, such as tooth removal can also cause bad breath or it can be caused as a result of tooth decay, gum disease or mouth sores.
  • Other mouths, nose and throat conditions: Small bacteria-covered stones can form in the tonsils sometimes and can produce odour and cause bad breath. Moreover, Infections or chronic inflammation in the nose, sinuses or throat can contribute to postnasal drip, causing bad breath or halitosis.
  • Drugs: Saliva can be reduced by certain medications, increasing the odours. There are some drugs that can produce odours as they break down, releasing chemicals in the breath. These include nitrates used to treat angina, some chemotherapy chemicals, and some tranquilisers. Taking vitamin supplements in large doses can also make one prone to bad breath.

What are the Symptoms of the Bad Breath? 

The odours of the bad breath can vary, depending on the source or the underlying reason.

Few people tend to worry too much about their breath even when they have little or no mouth odour, while others may have bad breath and be unaware of it.

As it is difficult to assess one’s own breath, it’s better to ask a close friend or relative to confirm if your breath has a bad odour.

When to See A Doctor?

Reviewing your oral hygiene habits is the best first step to take on discovering that you have bad breath.

Lifestyle changes like brushing teeth and tongue after eating, dental floss, and drinking plenty of water can go a long way to combat foul mouth odour.

However, if the bad breath persists even after making these changes, one must see the dentist to ascertain if a more serious condition is causing the bad breath. 

Tips to Improve Bad Breath

Bad breath can be improved through the following tips: 

  • Cleaning the tongue is also equally important to get rid of unwanted bacteria in the mouth
  • Avoid smoking and chewing tobacco-based products.
  • An alcohol-free mouthwash can be used to rinse and gargle before bed. This can help kill bad breath and plaque-causing bacteria that can lead to gingivitis or gum disease. 
  • Remove the Dentures at night and clean them thoroughly before placing them in the mouth the next morning.
  • Those who have a dry mouth should make sure to drink enough fluids throughout the day and use over-the-counter moisturizing agents, such as a dry mouth spray, rinses, or dry mouth moisturizing gel. If no improvement is noticed, one must schedule a visit with an oral medicine specialist as they can provide comprehensive care for mucosal diseases, salivary gland disorders, orofacial pain conditions, and oral complications of cancer therapies, among other things.
  • Visit the dentist regularly, at least twice a year for an oral exam and professional teeth cleaning. Do remember that these visits are an opportunity for the dentist to be able to find and treat periodontal disease, dry mouth, or other causes of bad breath.
  • Changing your toothbrush every 2 to 3 months is also important to maintain a healthy and odour-free mouth.

Who Treats Bad Breath?

The dentist can treat the cause of bad breath in most cases.

The presence of halitosis might be confirmed through tests to measure the strength of bad breath on a predefined scale and by the use of instruments that can detect specific compounds related to halitosis.

The intensity of bad breath is usually evaluated by the doctor by smelling the air that the person breathes out through the nose or mouth, or from the odour of a tongue scraping, length of dental floss, or a dental appliance such as a nightguard.

If the dentist feels that the mouth is healthy and the origin of the odour is the oral origin, the patient may be referred to the family doctor or to a specialist to determine the source of the odour and the treatment plan.

One can discuss the medications being taken with the dentist to see if any of them could be causing the problem.

If the odour is being caused by gum disease, the dentist can either treat the disease or refer the patient to a periodontist, a dentist who specializes in treating gum conditions.

What is the Treatment of Bad Breath? 

Good oral hygiene is the best way to reduce bad breath. This also helps to avoid cavities and reduce the likelihood of gum disease.

A visit to the dentist for a check-up and cleaning twice a year is highly recommended.

A toothpaste that includes an antibacterial agent or an antibacterial mouthwash may also be prescribed by the dentist.

However, if there is a presence of gum disease, professional cleaning may be necessary to clear out the build-up of bacteria in pockets between the gums and teeth.

Dr Sheena Gaur at Kirkland Premier Dentistry explains that bad breath can not only cause low self-esteem, but it may be a sign of a deeper problem. 

Good oral Hygiene along with twice a year visit to the dentist can go a long way in giving you a healthy smile and an odour-free mouth.

If your feel your breath does not feel fresh, call for an appointment.

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