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Bad Breath – Halitosis

Almost everyone experiences bad breath once in a while. But for some people, bad breath is a daily problem and they struggle to find a solution to it. Many times people are not even aware of their bad breath and they learn about it through their friends, family or a colleague which is really embarrassing. In severe or chronic cases, bad breath may negatively impact a person’s life. Diagnosing the causes of bad breath might not be easy and you might need to visit your dentist. Bad Breath or Halitosis can occur due to a number of reasons but the most common of it is said to be poor oral hygiene.

Causes of bad breath

Alcohol: Consumption of alcohol also leads to foul breath. This is because one of the sources of elimination of excess alcohol is breath ( the lungs). 

Medicines: Certain drugs can reduce saliva production in the mouth and therefore increase the bad odor. Examples include nitrates which are used to treat chest pain and some chemotherapy chemicals. Individuals who take vitamin supplements in large doses are also prone to bad breath. 

Diseases: Cancers of the oral cavity, liver failure, diabetes, and other metabolic diseases can cause bad odor. Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) can also cause bad breath due to regular reflux of stomach acids.

Tobacco chewing and cigarette smoking: Smokeless tobacco is available in many forms today. When microbes act upon these tobacco components they cause the release of a bad smell from the mouth. Smoking causes a smoker’s breath, which is caused by the particles that make up the smoke. When these particles come in contact with oral tissues they start accumulating on them and hence the smell. 

Dieting: Fasting or maintaining a low carbohydrate eating program can also induce this. This is due to breakdown of fats-producing chemicals known as Ketones. These ketones have a strong acetone smell. This is common in diabetics

People who have post nasal drip and are mouth breathers can also experience bad breath. 

Poor Oral hygiene: A person not brushing and floss his teeth properly (at least twice daily) is more likely to develop bad breath. The bacteria that grow on the food debris produce a bad smell that produces sulfur compounds. This causes bad smell and can also cause decaying of the tooth. 

Dry mouth: Saliva helps to wash our mouth and cleans it off of unwanted substances. But if the body does not make enough saliva (due to any reason) you can experience bad breath

How to tell if you have bad breath 

The Wrist Test: In this, lick your wrist and then wait for 10-15 seconds for the saliva to dry. Smell your wrist from a distance and judge if you find the smell weird or not. The Spoon Test: This test will check the smell coming from the back of your mouth. Select a small spoon and turn it upside down. Place the spoon at the back of your tongue and rub it back and forth. Now, smell and evaluate the debris on the spoon scraped off from the tongue.

The Floss Test: This test is used when the bad breath is due to food stuck between your teeth. Take a small piece of dental floss. Use it to floss between your teeth, especially the teeth at the back. Remove the floss and smell it from a distance. Decide if you find the smell objectionable or not.

Remedies for bad breath

Brushing: Brush your teeth at least twice a day properly cleaning all the tooth surfaces and gums. Use a tongue cleaner to remove the debris that gets built up on the tongue. A tongue scraper also can be used for the same.

Flossing: A dental floss is a thread like tool used to clean/remove food debris from in between the teeth. These places are inaccessible for the toothbrush bristles. It cleans and also massages the interdental areas. Use of pins, sticks etc. can harm the soft tissues in these delicate regions. 

Mouth Wash: Use a prescribed mouthwash to rinse your mouth after you clean your teeth. This will leave your mouth refreshed and will prevent bad odor. 

Clean Dentures: Denture wearers must make it a habit to clean their dentures and oral cavity after every meal. They can use a soft brush and soap water for the same. This would prevent the bacteria build up on the denture that will affect the tissue health and cause bad breath. Tapping tooth brush or massaging with a finger on the oral tissues will help in good blood circulation in oral tissues. 

Cavities in teeth: The decayed tooth becomes a house for bacteria and food debris. This leads to more destruction of tooth structure and production of foul smell. Thus get the cavities in your teeth filled by your dentist well in time. 

Diet: The smell from your mouth due to eating onions, garlic, etc is actually temporary. It gets removed after proper brushing. So it is not much of a problem to worry about. If the smell is persistent visit your dentist. 

Personal habits: Avoid alcohol and tobacco, smoking as they will dehydrate the mouth inviting diseases of the oral cavity. Remain hydrated: Drink plenty of water as it flushes out toxins from your body. In case of dry mouth use chewing gums and mints to stimulate the salivary flow. 

If your mouth still remains dry, contact your dentist who may find the reason for your dry mouth and prescribe you the medication for the same. The problem of bad breath cannot be solved overnight. It requires a proper diagnosis to determine the causes and also proper oral hygiene and maintaining a good and healthy lifestyle. If you have tried everything and still have this problem then you might want to contact your dentist now.

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