More than 80 million people
suffer from chronic halitosis, or bad breath. In
most cases it originates from the gums and
tongue. The odor is caused by wastes from
bacteria in the mouth, the decay of food
particles, other debris in your mouth and poor
oral hygiene. The decay and debris produce a
sulfur compound that causes the unpleasant odor.
What causes bad
Bad breath is primarily caused by
poor oral hygiene but can also be caused by
retained food particles or gum disease.
Does bad breath
come from other sources than the mouth?
Bad breath also
may occur in people who have a medical
infection, diabetes, kidney failure or a liver
malfunction. Xerostomia (dry mouth) and tobacco
also contribute to this problem. Cancer patients
who undergo radiation therapy may experience dry
mouth. Even stress, dieting, snoring, age and
hormonal changes can have an effect on your
breath. An odor that comes from the back of your
tongue may indicate postnasal drip. This is
where mucus secretion, which comes from the nose
and moves down your throat, gets stuck on the
tongue and causes an odor.
Why is saliva
so important in the fight against bad breath?
Saliva is the key
ingredient in your mouth that helps keep the
odor under control because it helps wash away
food particles and bacteria, the primary cause
of bad breath. When you sleep, however, salivary
glands slow down the production of saliva,
allowing the bacteria to grow inside the mouth.
To alleviate "morning mouth," brush your teeth
and eat a morning meal. Morning mouth also is
associated with hunger or fasting. Those who
skip breakfast, beware, because the odor may
reappear even if you've brushed your teeth.
foods cause bad breath?
Very spicy foods,
such as onions and garlic, and coffee may be
detected on a person's breath for up to 72 hours
after digestion. Onions, for example, are
absorbed by the stomach, and the odor is then
excreted through the lungs. Studies even have
shown that garlic rubbed on the soles of the
feet can show up on the breath.
How do I
control bad breath?
It is important to
practice good oral hygiene, such as brushing and
flossing your teeth at least twice a day. Proper
brushing, including brushing the tongue, cheeks
and the roof of the mouth, will remove bacteria
and food particles. Flossing removes accumulated
bacteria, plaque and food that may be trapped
between teeth. To alleviate odors, clean your
tongue with your toothbrush or a tongue scraper,
a plastic tool that scrapes away bacteria that
builds on the tongue. Chewing sugar-free gum
also may help control odor. If you have dentures
or a removable appliance, such as a retainer or
mouth guard, clean the appliance thoroughly
before placing it back in your mouth. Before you
use mouth rinses, deodorizing sprays or tablets,
talk with your dentist, because these products
only mask the odor temporarily and some products
work better than others.
What is my
Visit your dentist
regularly, because checkups will help detect any
physical problems. Checkups also help get rid of
the plaque and bacteria that build up on your
teeth. If you think that you suffer from bad
breath, your dentist can help determine its
source. He or she may ask you to schedule a
separate appointment to find the source of the
odor. Or, if your dentist believes that the
problem is caused from a systemic (internal)
source, such as an infection, he or she may
refer you to your family physician or a
specialist to help remedy the cause of the