Written by: WellCome Care Editorial Team
In a nutshell
- Halitosis, or bad breath is a very common problem that can be a source of embarrassment in social circles, and may contribute to low self esteem
- Contrary to the popular misconception, bad breath does not always mean that a person is not taking care of their oral hygiene
- There are many factors that can cause bad breath, and the cause of these factors must be studied/addressed to ensure effective treatment
Bad breath can make a person feel embarrassed, anxious, and self-conscious – which can in turn make him/her struggle with social, personal or professional interactions.
While inadequate, or complete lack or oral hygiene maintenance can result in halitosis, it is certainly not the only cause. Following are some of the factors that contribute to bad breath:
- Tobacco: Smoking, chewing on, or ingesting tobacco products
- Diet: The chemical breakdown of certain foods such as onions, garlic, various kinds of spices in your mouth can also cause bad breath. Excessive consumption of alcohol can also produce the same effects
- Xerostomia: Xerostomia is a condition whereby the salivary glands of the mouth are unable to produce an adequate amount of saliva to keep the oral cavity moist and cleansed.
- Mouth Breathing: Individuals who, either habitually, or due to dental mal-alignment, breathe through their mouth are most likely to suffer from halitosis because their mouth remains dry throughout the day or night.
- Oral Appliances: The presence of oral appliances such as braces, dentures, and arch expanders in the mouth can often cause bad breath.
- Poor Hygiene & Health: Plaque accumulation in the mouth can lead to a number of infections that affect both, the teeth and the gums. Gingivitis and Periodontitis can both cause halitosis, however it is much more severe in the latter. Presence of carious teeth, infected sockets, malignant lesions, pericoronitis, ulcers, and mouth sores result in the same.
- Drugs/medication: Certain anti-depressants, anti-histamines, diuretics, anti-cholinergics, anti-psychotics, and decongestants can contribute to oral mal-odor.
Bad breath holds great significance in diagnosing and identifying other non-dental underlying conditions. Halitosis is a known symptoms of the following diseases:
- Sinusitis & Tonsillitis
- Malignancies & Leukemia
- Gastrointestinal & hepatic disease
- Renal disease & failure
- Endocrine & metabolic diseases
- Diabetic ketoacidosis
- Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, or GERD
- Trimethylaminuria & Hypermethioninemia
- Intestinal obstruction
Once the cause of the bad breath has been determined, the correct treatment can be prescribed. It is important to understand that if the underlying cause isn’t identified, the treatments may either not work, or will only work temporarily.
RECOMMENDED TREATMENT REGIMEN
To effectively get rid of bad breath, it is important to:
- Reduce oral bacterial load by practicing good oral hygiene and dietary modifications
- Use medicated Chlorhexidine mouthwashes, a fluoride toothpaste, a good quality tooth brush, and most importantly, the correct brushing and flossing techniques for optimal cleaning
- Clean and scrape the tongue to remove accumulated bacteria and food debris
- Chew Xylitol gums to induce healthy production of saliva which keeps the mouth moist and cleansed, thus preventing it from drying out
- Visit the dental clinic for professional cleaning and removal of accumulated plaque through scaling and root planning
STRENGTH OF EVIDENCE: A
A systematic clinical approach to treatment, following thorough diagnosis and examination has shown excellent results in treating halitosis. Experts emphasize on addressing all dental and non-dental conditions that may be causing bad breath as a symptom.
Good oral health, and overall health of the entire body and its organs play a vital role in treating/getting rid of bad breath.
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- Journal of Nat Sci Biological Medicine- Halitosis: From diagnosis to management
- NHS - Treating bad breath
- Cochrane Database Systematic Review - Tongue scraping for treating halitosis
- Euro Journal of Dentistry - Halitosis: diagnosis and management
- Intl Journal of Oral Science - Halitosis: the multidisciplinary approach