Authored By: Greg Johnstone
Reviewed By: Mike Malone, DDS
Bad breath, otherwise known as halitosis, is a very common oral health issue. People of most any age may suffer from halitosis, including:
- Individuals with poor dental hygiene.
- The elderly, young children and disabled who have difficulty maintaining dental hygiene.
- People who use mouth appliances, including dental braces and dentures.
- Smokers are more prone to halitosis and periodontal disease (another contributor to bad breath).
- People with certain medical conditions including, but not limited to, tooth decay, impacted teeth, abscessed teeth, periodontal disease, alcoholism, uncontrolled diabetes, sinusitis, post-nasal drip, allergies, throat and lung infections (such as bronchitis) and dry mouth. Dry mouth may be the result of a high protein diet, non-fibrous diet or medical condition.
- Individuals on certain medications, including, but not limited to, certain vitamin supplements, antihistamines, calcium blockers, cardiac medications, blood pressure pharmaceuticals and psychiatric drugs have been known to inhibit saliva flow or produce dry mouth, which may lead to halitosis. Dry mouth may also lead to excessive thirst and tooth decay — a good foundation for halitosis once again.
- Poor dieters who are dehydrated because of certain foods they eat may have bad breath. Foods that contribute to halitosis include diet soda, onions, spices, garlic, curry, cabbage and coffee. High protein food debris lodged between the teeth can produce halitosis as well.
Bacterial Origins of Bad Breath
Researchers have determined that bad breath typically originates during open-air interaction with bacteria in the mouth, the nose or the stomach.
There are numerous nasal triggers for bad breath. Nasal dysfunction, including a genetic abnormality in the nasal passage, may inhibit proper mucous flow. The bacteria found in sinusitis, post-nasal drip and allergies may pass from the nose to the back of the tongue where, if neglected, it can lie dormant due to improper saliva flow or poor dental hygiene.
Bad Breath Bacterial Scents
Biologists have determined that numerous types of bacteria contribute to halitosis. Interestingly, all of these bacteria are found in other types of unpleasant odors, including corpse scent (a combination of oxygen and sulfur compounds and/or nitrogen-containing gases such as cadaverine), decayed meat (putrescine), rotten egg stench (hydrogen sulfide), smelly feet (isovaleric acid), as well as feces aroma (methyl mercaptan and skatole). When bacterial plaque is not removed from the teeth, gums, or in between the teeth, it continues to grow and ultimately may lead to halitosis, tooth decay and gum disease.
To think that such scents could be emanating from your mouth is unpleasant indeed, illustrating the importance of exercising proper dental hygiene and maintaining regular dental check-ups.
Bad Breath Solutions
Authored By: Greg Johnstone
Reviewed By: Mike Malone, DDS
Bad Breath Basics
According to market research firms, U.S. consumers spent $625 million on modern breath fresheners such as breath mints, and $740 million on mouthwashes and related products in 2000.
Using such breath freshening aids may provide halitosis sufferers with short-term relief, though they cannot replace the importance of the following good dental hygiene practices:
Exercise Good Dental Hygiene: Simply put, good dental hygiene deters halitosis. Food debris lodged between teeth and around gums creates an ideal environment for the bacteria that cause bad breath. Brush your teeth at least twice daily (as instructed by your dentist), and floss between each tooth daily, if not more often. Brushing and flossing are particularly important after high protein meals or other meals that trigger foul breath and dehydration.
Antiseptic mouthwash used in the morning, before bedtime and after eating is particularly helpful in reducing halitosis-causing bacteria growth. Antiseptic mouthwash ingredients may vary from one product to another, and include chlorhexidine, chlorine dioxide, zinc chloride and oils (like eucalyptus oil).
Tongue scrapers can also be useful in managing bad breath. Gently scrape the mucous off the back of the tongue, where bacteria may be present. Gentle tongue scraping is emphasized in order to prevent damage to the tongue.
Finally, individuals who have appliances such as dental braces and dentures must follow the specific instructions for cleaning and caring for these appliances in order to avoid bad breath. This is especially true when it comes to appliances that are removed at night.
Maintaining a Proper Diet: Diet plays a significant role in dental hygiene. Appropriate food and drink can support proper saliva flow to help limit the possibility of halitosis. Fibrous foods have been known to help maintain a healthy mouth. Eating a healthy breakfast every morning initiates saliva flow after a night's sleep when bacteria and odor tend to buildup.
Staying hydrated through sufficient water intake is also important to help inhibit bad breath. Drinks that are high in sugar and acid such as sodas and juices do not support a pleasant oral health environment.
Consider These Bad Breath Aids
Straws are useful in sending sugary or sticky liquids past the teeth and tongue where they can become lodged and house bacteria. Straws are especially useful for the elderly, small children and disabled people who may have difficulty maintaining proper dental hygiene. For individuals suffering from dry mouth, over-the-counter products and pharmaceutical medications can help reduce its effects. Certain toothpastes, toothbrushes, mouth rinses and breath sprays are made to relieve dry mouth.
If you have bad breath, discolored mucous, colored blotches, or bumps on your tongue, it may be a sign of a more serious medical condition such as oral thrush, oral herpes or oral cancer. It is best to see your doctor and dentist to evaluate your halitosis.