Halitosis (Bad Breath)


Halitosis, which is more commonly known as bad breath, can be an embarrassing problem. The mouth is the source of over 90% of all malodours. If you are concerned about bad breath, the first step should be to take care of your mouth and gums by practicing good dental habits. The good news is that bad breath can often be prevented with a few simple steps. 

What are the causes of Halitosis?

  1. Neglecting your brushing or flossing: Improper cleaning of your teeth, gums and tongue can allow food particles and bacteria to cause an unpleasant odour. 
  2. Foods: Certain foods like garlic and onions can cause bad breath. These types of foods contain pungent oils that are carried to your lungs and out of your mouth.  
  3. Dry Mouth: Saliva is needed to cleanse the mouth and remove odour causing bacteria. It contains enzymes that break down food particles and other enzymes that kill bacteria. Xerostomia (Dry Mouth) occurs when the flow of salivia is decreased and can cause bad breath.
  4. Decreased saliva flow occurs naturally at night-time following the body’s natural circadian rhythm, so it is important not to eat after 8.00pm. Eating late at night with low amounts of saliva in the mouth allows sulphur producing bacteria to proliferate on papallae at the back of the tongue giving rise to a characteristic pungent odour.
  5. Tobacco: Smoking not only causes bad breath, but can also stain your teeth, irritate your gums, and reduce your ability to taste foods.
  6. Gum Disease: Persistent bad breath may be a warning sign of periodontal (gum) disease.
  7. Medical Disorders: In a small percentage of cases, bad breath can be a sign of a medical disorder, such as diabetes, gastrointestinal issues or chronic sinusitis. 

Good Dental Habits can Banish Bad Breath:

  • Brush your teeth, twice daily with a toothpaste containing 1,450ppm of fluoride. 
  • Use floss daily to remove food debris in between the teeth, which would otherwise be left in the mouth and contribute to bad breath. 
  • Your tongue can harbour odour-causing bacteria. Be sure to clean your tongue with a toothbrush or tongue scraper. 
  • Use toothpaste containing zinc chloride/triclosan/baking soda for cleaning your tongue if you have malodour. This will give temporary relief for up to 4 hours. 
  • Visit your dentist for regular checkups. Cleaning with your hygienist can help get rid of plaque and bacteria build-up may also contribute to bad breath. Your dentist may be able to detect the underlying problem of the bad breath and develop the right plan for you. 

Do I need to use a mouthwash?

Some antiseptic mouth rinses have exhibited therapeutic benefits in reducing plaque and gingivitis. However, many mouthwashes or rinses are cosmetic and while these can be used to freshen breath, they do not generally have a long lasting effect on bad breath. If it is recommended to use a mouthwash, look for an over-the-counter antiseptic mouthwash containing zinc-chloride or chlorhexidine. 

Other Solutions

Besides keeping your teeth, gums and tongue clean and healthy, these are some other remedies that may help cure the problem of bad breath. 

  • Quit Smoking
  • If you wear dentures or removable appliances, be sure to remove them at night and clean them thoroughly before replacing them in your mouth. 
  • If you are experiencing problems with dry mouth, your dentist may prescribe artificial saliva. Other possible remedies would be sucking on a sugar-free sweet or a piece of sugar free gum to increase saliva flow, and increasing your fluid intake. 

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