Have you ever experienced bad breath, also known as halitosis? Have you been embarrassed, felt it affect your self-esteem, destroy intimacy, or affect your job?
It has been reported that between 14 to 25 percent of Americans and 35 to 45 percent of the entire world’s population have chronic bad breath. Estimates say that we spend approximately $10 billion every year for breath mints, mouthwashes and rinses, gum, pills, toothpastes and other products and treatments to fight bad breath.
The sad thing is that many of these purchased items are completely ineffective, others just mask the problem they claim they will resolve, and some even make the problem worse!
An example of a commonly used product that masks bad breath for a short period and actually contributes to the problem is an alcohol-based mouthwash. The net effect of an alcohol-based mouthwash on your breath is negative — the alcohol is drying out your mouth and creating a great breeding ground for the kind of bacteria that contributes most to bad breath.
A relatively new ingredient in some mouthwashes is “chlorine dioxide” or “stabilized chlorine dioxide.” Reportedly, mouthwashes with chlorine dioxide or stabilized chlorine dioxide actually attack that sulphurous, ‘rotten egg’ smell that oral bacteria leaves behind and won’t dry out your mouth.
It sounds like this is a product that might actually be worth the money spent on it.
Causes Of Bad Breath
Chronic (persistent) bad breath is most often caused by poor oral hygiene, gum (periodontal) disease, and tooth decay.
Bad Breath and Oral Hygiene
The tongue is often involved in bad breath due to bacteria flourishing under the coating of food debris. Cleaning the tongue can significantly reduce bad breath and can be done with your toothbrush when brushing your teeth, or a tongue cleaner (tongue scraper).
Brushing at least twice a day (morning and before bed) with a fluoride toothpaste, and flossing once a day, visiting your dentist for professional cleaning and check-up twice a year, are all important factors in reducing bad breath.
Bad Breath and Gum Disease
Especially when advanced, gum disease is a common cause of severe halitosis. Waste products from bacteria growing below the gum line have a foul smell and have been clinically shown to produce a very intense bad breath. Removal of this calculus (tartar or hard plaque) improves mouth odour considerably. This can only be done professionally (your dentist or hygienist).
Bad Breath and Tooth Decay
Tooth Decay contributes to bad breath in a number of ways. Plaque and food debris can sit in cavities, making it difficult for you to clean your teeth.
That will result in decay getting worse quickly and causing further tooth breakdown. Broken teeth and fillings, especially those that are old or have rough margins, can create food traps, which cause halitosis when not cleaned immediately.
If this problem persists, this not only contributes to further decay, but can also lead to infections which sometimes can cause seep into the mouth causing a foul taste and smell. Many people will NOT experience any pain or discomfort with tooth decay so early detection is critical in preventing further, more expensive problems.
Seeing your dental professional on a routine basis is imperative in helping detect and prevent tooth decay.
Morning breath is simply caused by a lack of saliva. While we sleep, our bodies shut down most, if not all, saliva production by the salivary glands. Saliva helps kill the bacteria in the mouth that causes bad breath, so when the saliva supply is cut off the bacteria thrives.
Medical Conditions That Cause Bad Breath
Certain medical conditions will cause breath odour. The listing of medical conditions below is not intended to be an all-inclusive list. If you believe that your breath odour problem is being caused by something outside of your diet or your oral hygiene habits, see a medical professional immediately.
- Esophageal problems
- Gastroesophageal Reflux
- Kidney or liver failure
- Postnasal drip
- Vincent’s disease
- Zenker’s diverticulum
Medications That Cause Bad Breath
Certain prescription medications, as well as some over-the-counter medications will cause a breath odour. The following list of medicines is not intended to be an all inclusive list nor does it suggest that all users of these medications will exhibit bad breath. Medicines work differently on each individual.
- Any drugs that reduce salivation
- Certain sinus drugs
- Some antidepressants
If a prescription medication is causing you to have a breath problem, DO NOT stop taking the medication without consulting with your doctor. A breath odour problem is not life-threatening. If, however, you stop taking a prescribed medication you may be damaging your health.
- Maintain proper oral hygiene. This sounds basic and common sense but it is surprising how many people complain they have bad breath yet do not brush their teeth on a daily basis.
- Clean your tongue. Using your toothbrush or tongue cleaner/scraper, gently brush off the bacterial debris every time you brush your teeth.
- Chew gum. Since dry-mouth can increase bacterial buildup and worsen bad breath, chewing sugarless gum can increase saliva flow, reducing bad breath.
- Use mouthwash. Choose one with no alcohol content, since alcohol is a drying agent.
- See your dental health care professional on a routine basis
A Note On Traditional Remedies
According to traditional Ayurvedic medicine, chewing areca nut and betel leaf is an excellent remedy against bad breath. In South Asia, it was a custom to chew areca or betel nut and betel leaf among lovers because of the breath-freshening and stimulant drug properties of the mixture.
Both the nut and the leaf are mild stimulants and can be addictive with repeated use. The betel nut will also cause tooth decay and dye one’s teeth bright red when chewed.
Both areca nut and the betel leaf chewing however are recognized risk factors for squamous cell carcinoma. Their use is not recommended.