In this article, read all about halitosis or bad breath.
Each one of us have come across a condition which is designated in lay man's language as bad breath and medically as halitosis.
What Is Halitosis?
It simply refers to a feeling of having a bad breath with which no one feels comfortable. This condition affects around 20 to 25 % of the population in general. Although it is not a dental emergency, due to the clinical, psychological and social implications it has on the affected individual, it needs to be addressed immediately.
What Causes Halitosis?
There are several causes associated with it which are within the control of an individual as well as due to clinical disorders within the oral cavity and the general body.
Causes Within the Control of an Individual:
Causes Due to Dental Problems:
Causes Due to Systemic Diseases:
Use of foods containing sulfur like onion and garlic.
How Does It Happen?
Halitosis happens due to the release of chemicals from the bacterial decomposition of foods, particularly fats and carbohydrates. Sulfur is one of the important ingredients of such processes.
Such chemicals are also generated due to impairment of bodily functions due to diabetes mellitus, chronic renal failure, and jaundice.
How to Manage It?
Maintain good oral hygiene by brushing your teeth regularly and rinsing after taking meals, beverages and any kind of drugs or syrups.
Get a prophylactic scaling done by a dentist every six months.
It is necessary to get special care and follow up in the case of medically compromised patients like diabetes, kidney failure, etc.
Ensure you clean your dentures and other removable oral prostheses daily.
Restore oral health by treating problems like xerostomia and filling of carious teeth.
Consult a general physician for diseases of the stomach, intestines, kidneys, etc.
Medications for Symptomatic Relief Are:
Mouthwash containing Chlorhexidine.
Gum paint to treat gingival diseases.
Proton-pump inhibitors (PPI) like Pantoprazole to treat acid reflux.
Prevention is better than cure as most of the causes lie within one's own hands.
Halitosis is an oral malodor or bad-smelling breath that occurs due to localized dental and oral issues like plaque deposition, teeth cavity, unclean dentures, food, smoking, alcoholism, medications, gastric problems, systemic disorders, delusional, etc. Based on the etiology, the malodor varies. It is a kind of rotten egg smell in an oral cause, fishy odor in kidney failure, fruity in diabetes, and sulfur smell in liver disease.
Oral malodor can be managed by correcting the underlying cause.
Oral prophylaxis for halitosis of local origin and medications for the treatment of systemic conditions can reverse halitosis.
Brushing the teeth twice daily along with other oral hygiene procedures like flossing, tongue cleaning, and using mouthwash can reduce the malodor. Instant reduction of malodor at home lasts short. Chewing gum, mint-containing lozenges, oxidizing lozenges, mouth sprays, baking soda containing toothpaste, essential oils, drinking water, etc., can instantly reduce bad breath. Still, the results are not permanent until the correction of the cause.
Bad breath is not a disease that can be cured by medicine. It is the sign of an underlying condition that has to be eliminated for its correction. A dentist can eliminate halitosis of dental or oral origin. If present, medication or treatment for other systemic ailments must be taken to reduce bad breath of systemic origin. Refraining from harmful habits like smoking, alcoholism, betel nut chewing, etc., along with good oral hygiene procedures, is needed.
An essential oil mouth rinse, baking soda containing toothpaste, sugar-free chewing gum, probiotics like yogurt, chewing on to spices like cinnamon, star anise, fennel seeds after a meal, avoiding tobacco products, alcohol, and drinking water can help reduce the malodor to some extent temporarily in the presence of an underlying cause.
Plaque and tartar accumulation in the teeth, gingival and periodontal diseases, unclean dentures, poor oral hygiene, uncontrolled diabetes, liver and kidney disorders, cancer, medications, respiratory infection, tonsillitis, dry mouth, Sjogren’s syndrome, etc., can cause stinky breath.
Bad breath due to prolonged dry mouth will revert using salivary substitutes, chewing sugarless gums, and drinking water. Bad breath of food origin can last for approximately three days until the food gets excreted out of the body. For halitosis due to poor oral hygiene, a simple scaling, filling, oral hygiene measures, and gingival and periodontal diseases correction will do. Systemic conditions need to be treated accordingly if present.
Oral malodor due to stomach-related issues like ulcers, acid reflux, GERD can be managed by avoiding spicy foods, garlic, caffeinated beverages, citrus fruits, fried foods, alcohol, onion and increasing the intake of fiber-rich food for better digestion. Drinking enough water, chewing gum, and taking antacids and antiulcerant medication can help manage the malodor.
Dental scaling to remove plaque and tartar, filling teeth cavities, treating respiratory infections, diabetes, other systemic disorders like liver and kidney problems, keeping the mouth hydrated by using sugarless chewing gums, drinking water, avoiding smoking, smokeless tobacco, alcohol, reducing the intake of odor-causing foods like garlic, onion, etc., and practicing good oral hygiene procedures can permanently cure malodor.
Following essential oral hygiene procedures like brushing the teeth twice, flossing, using tongue scrapers and mouth rinse, keeping tobacco products and alcohol away, having healthy and nutritious food on time to prevent ulcers and regulate the gut environment, drinking plenty of water, and visiting the dentist once every six months for a regular check-up are some ways to prevent halitosis.
Last reviewed at:
10 Nov 2021 - 2 min read
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