Halitosis or as it is commonly known, bad breath, is an embarrassing condition. Gum, mints, mouthwashes, and other products designed to fight bad breath are only temporary measures as they don’t address the cause of the problem. Some food items, health conditions, and habits are the main causes of bad breath. You can cure bad breath with proper and consistent dental hygiene. The malodor may vary depending on the underlying cause. If self-care techniques don’t work, it is best to see your dentist or physician to make sure that it isn’t a symptom of other serious condition.
Some people may have bad breath and don’t know about it. Other people worry too much about their breath even though they have little or no mouth odor. It is hard to self-assess your breath. Therefore, ask a close friend or relative to check if you have bad breath.
There are many probable causes for bad breath. They are:
The breakdown of food particles in your mouth increases bacteria and causes a foul odor. When you eat certain foods like onions, garlic, and spices, they enter your bloodstream, are carried to your lungs, and affect your breath.
- Tobacco products
Smokers and oral tobacco users are prone to having gum diseases, which could lead to bad breath. Tobacco has an unpleasant odor as well.
- Poor dental hygiene
Food particles remain in your mouth and cause bad breath if you don’t brush and floss daily. Plaque, a colorless and sticky film of bacteria, forms on your teeth. This plaque can irritate your gums and eventually form plaque-filled pockets between your teeth and gums if you don’t brush regularly. Not only your teeth, but the tongue can also trap bacteria that produce odors.
- Dry mouth or xerostomia
Saliva helps cleanse your mouth. If you have a problem with your salivary glands, it may result in chronic dry mouth. Dryness can contribute to bad breath due to a reduction in the production of saliva. Bad breath in the morning occurs due to dry mouth while sleeping. If you sleep with your mouth open, it gets worse.
Some medications result in a dry mouth and indirectly contributes to bad breath.
If you have a surgical wound after oral surgery or tooth decay, gum disease or mouth sores, it may result in bad breath. Sometimes bad breath stems from small stones that form in the tonsils which are covered with odor-producing bacteria. Also, infections in the nose, sinuses or throat can cause bad breath.
To cure bad breath, your dentist may recommend a toothpaste that carries an antibacterial agent to kill the bacteria that cause plaque buildup. Your dentist may recommend a mouth rinse that kills the bacteria if your bad breath is due to a buildup of bacteria (plaque) on your teeth. You may be referred to a gum specialist (periodontist) if you have gum disease. Gum disease can cause gums to pull away from your teeth, leaving deep pockets in which the odor-causing bacteria may accumulate. You may require the help of a dentist as sometimes only professional cleaning removes these bacteria. It is also recommended to replace faulty tooth restorations which are a breeding ground for bacteria.
Lifestyle and home remedies
Follow these habits to cure bad breath:
- Brush your teeth after each meal: You may keep a toothbrush at work to use after eating. Brush twice a day using fluoride-containing toothpaste. Toothpaste with antibacterial features has been proven to cure bad breath.
- Floss once a day: Flossing can cure bad breath by removing food particles and plaque from between your teeth.
- Clean your tongue: Your tongue is a shelter for bacteria, therefore brushing or cleaning it with a tongue scraper may help cure bad breath. You may use a toothbrush that has a built-in tongue cleaner. If you have a coated tongue due to smoking or dry mouth, it is recommended to use a tongue scraper as there might be a significant overgrowth of bacteria.
- Clean your dentures or dental appliances: Clean dentures thoroughly at least once a day or as directed by your dentist. Make sure to clean the dental retainer or mouth guard each time before you put it in your mouth.
- Keep your mouth moist: You can prevent bad breath by avoiding tobacco and drinking plenty of water (not coffee, soft drinks or alcohol, which can lead to a dry mouth). To stimulate saliva, chew on gum or suck a candy, preferably sugarless. Your dentist or physician may prescribe an artificial saliva preparation or an oral medication that stimulates the flow of saliva if you have a chronic dry mouth.
- Remodel your diet: Avoiding foods like onions and garlic will help to cure bad breath. Also, avoid eating a lot of sweet foods as it can lead to bad breath.
- Regularly change your toothbrush: Get a new toothbrush when it becomes frayed. Choose a soft-bristled toothbrush about every three to four months.
- See your dentist regularly: Schedule regular dental checkups, at least twice a year, to examine and clean your teeth or dentures.
Depending on the cause, the treatment for bad breath can vary. Consistently practice good oral hygiene to reduce the risk of gum disease, and try to avoid cavities for a healthy, confident, and fresh breath.