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Bad Breath (Halitosis)

November 23, 2021
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Posted By: Dr. Saba Heday, D.D.S.

What is Halitosis?

Halitosis means bad breath. It is one of the leading causes of self-conscious behavior. The problem with halitosis is that we cannot see it in a mirror, we cannot touch it, we can’t even smell it ourselves. The only way people know they have halitosis is from someone else bringing it to their attention.

So, what are the causes of halitosis?

Dental Caries and Periodontitis

One of the most frequent causes of halitosis is dental caries and periodontitis.

Bacteria going over drive and producing fumes in that process cause dental caries and periodontitis. So, as long as dental caries or periodontitis exists, the bacterial load is imbalanced leading to bad breath.

Tongue

Another reason for halitosis is not cleaning the tongue properly and frequently. The little taste buds stemming from the tongue are a perfect place to harbor bacteria, even fungus!

Xerostomia

Xerostomia means dry mouth. Dry mouth can have various causes. Some of the most frequent causes are medications, alcohol consumption, frequent marijuana use, and mouth breathing. When the mouth is dry, the acidity of the mouth increases. And that in-tern leads to bad breath.

Food Consumptions

Foods that we eat can play a significant part in halitosis as well. Have you heard of Keto breath? It can be caused by release of ketones due to too much fat and too little carb consumption. Milk and foods with high sugar content is another food culprit.  The breakdown of sugars such as lactose and glucose can lead to a pungent smell. 

Stomach Acid

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) can lead to halitosis. The undigested acid-soaked food escaping form our stomach can have a strong smell that cannot be removed by brushing the teeth.

Infections in Throat or Tonsils and Lungs

Infections are usually caused by bacteria or fungus. Tonsilar stones can trap organisms, which can lead to halitosis. Also, any infection of the lungs or throat, such as bronchitis or strep, can lead to bad breath due to the by-products of the infecting organism.

How can we alleviate halitosis?

Seeing your dentist is usually the first step. If bad breath is caused by dental caries or periodontitis, treating them can remove the source of bacteria and over time lead to a more balanced bacterial load in the oral cavity and in-turn remove the source of halitosis.

Brushing your tongue can remove the food particles that can harbor organisms. Using a plastic or metal tongue scraper can be helpful. Care needs to be taken to be gentle with the tongue to prevent abrasions.

If you experience medication-induced xerostomia, using Xylitol products can help increase salivary flow.  Xylitol is a natural sugar that increases salivary flow. There are medications that your dentist can prescribe to increase salivary flow if indicated. Also, frequent water drinking and rinsing the mouth with water after consuming food or drinks other than water can be helpful.

Halitosis induced by food can be addressed by thorough cleaning of the mouth after each meal, and using Xylitol products to bump up saliva flow. Keto breath is another story, the only way to alleviate that is changing the diet.

Addressing the cause of stomach acid is another way to prevent halitosis. Your physician can provide a food-guide and, if indicated, prescribe medications.

If you have frequent tonsilar stones, swishing with salt water can help regulate acidity and remove dislodged stones. See your dentist or physician for further treatment of tonsilar stones or other throat/lung infections.

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