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Bad breath

April 20, 2023 Dental health

Bad breath or Halitosis is extremely common and is estimated to affect 50% of the general population. Halitosis may originate from an oral or a non-oral source. However up to 90% of cases are estimated to stem from the oral cavity.
The most common causes include poor oral hygiene, periodontal disease, food impaction, unclean dentures, failing restorations, and throat infections.
Poor oral hygiene allows food particles to collect on the surface of the tongue, between the teeth or along the gum line surrounding the teeth. Naturally occurring bacteria in your mouth then break down those food particles, releasing chemicals that have a strong odour.
Caring for your mouth will help limit food residue and plaque build-up and reduce the risk of developing caries and periodontal disease.
Diet is a common bad breath culprit. Foods such as garlic and onions, in particular, can foul your breath.
Infections in the mouth, such as dental caries (tooth decay), periodontal (gum) disease or mouth sores related to other conditions may contribute to bad breath.
Once your food is digested, chemicals that cause odour can be absorbed into your bloodstream and from there into your lungs; these chemicals then are exhaled. Diets high in protein and sugar also have been associated with bad breath.
Saliva in the mouth helps to wash food particles away. People with a dry mouth may suffer from chronic bad breath due to a lack cleansing. Causes of dry mouth may include; some medications, mouth breathing and smoking.
Bad breath may also be a by-product of certain health conditions. It may result from infections in the nose, throat or lungs; chronic sinusitis; postnasal drip; chronic bronchitis; or disturbances in your digestive system.
Management may include simple measures such as scaling and root planning, instructions for oral hygiene, tongue cleaning, and mouth rinsing.
Knowing the cause is half the battle in fighting bad breath, and the best weapon you have is good oral hygiene.
The Australian Dental Association recommends that you brush your teeth twice a day with a fluoride-containing toothpaste and clean between your teeth once a day by using an interdental cleaner such as floss. Brushing your tongue will also help to remove bacteria that contribute to oral odours. If you wear removable dentures, take them out at night and brush them thoroughly with a denture cleanser before replacing them the next morning.
If your problem seems to stem from a dry mouth, consider chewing sugar-free gum or sucking on sugar-free candies to help stimulate salivary flow. There also are artificial saliva’s on the market that may help. Above all, talk with your dentist about your concerns.
A thorough health history, including a list of medications and supplements you are taking, may be helpful in determining whether the cause of your bad breath is localized to the mouth or might be a systemic condition, in which case your GP be consulted. If your breath problems stem from an oral cause, your dentist can work with you to develop a treatment plan that minimizes odour.