Bad breath, medically known as halitosis, is not only a social nuisance but a pretty definitive indicator of poor general and dental health. People with foul smelling breath are not only shunned at work, they tend to have fewer friends and a limited social circle. Hence, it is imperative to have knowledge of factors that are responsible for causing halitosis, as well as its prevention and management.
What Causes Bad Breath?
Halitosis is a multifactorial problem which can be caused by various general or medical reasons.
Poor Oral Hygiene
The most common cause of a bad breath is poor oral hygiene. A failure to brush teeth after meals can cause disintegration of the food particles. These adhere to the teeth and the oral cavity, leading to bacteria that produce foul smelling sulphur dioxide gas. The presence of sulphur dioxide gas in the oral cavity is a major reason of foul breath.
Prolonged ignorance of oral hygiene in some patients can result in deposition and calcification of food and debris on the teeth. Calcified deposits and inflamed gums are a source of bad breath.
It is a common occurrence that alcoholic individuals more frequently bad breath. Research has shown that alcohol can reduce salivary production and flow. Since saliva acts as a bathing and cleansing medium for the oral cavity, absence of sufficient salivary production results in development of bad odour within the oral cavity.
Smoking or chewing tobacco not only causes extrinsic tooth stains, they can result in development of halitosis. The situation is further aggravated in case of insufficient oral hygiene.
Several components of diet are known to possess a strong smell and can cause halitosis. People who suffer from this kind of bad breath include those fond of eating large quantities of garlic, onions and certain spices. Intake of these dietary components results in generation of bacteria that are responsible for bad breath.
Effect of Time of Day
Breaths smell bad more during the day than in evening or night. This is because at night the salivary glands are at rest and functioning normally. However, during sleep, salivary activity is reduced, causing the breath to smell strong immediately after getting up.
Xerostomia refers to any medical or dental condition in which salivary output is decreased in the oral cavity. Local causes include alcohol and smoking, while systemic reasons include various medications and illnesses, such as Sjogren’s syndrome and Diabetes Mellitus.
Some gastrointestinal problems, such as indigestion or peptic ulcer disease, can also contribute to halitosis. The main reason behind these ailments is having an irregular diet pattern and lack of sufficient physical activity.
The first step in management is the identification and eradication of the root cause. A dentist, along with the general physician of the patient,will identify possible medical or dental causes of the problem and then correct them. In case of a dental infection, instructions regarding oral hygiene maintenance, along with antibiotics in case of severe infections, are usually prescribed by the dentist. In the case of systemic medical illness, it is necessary to get the problem treated by a medical doctor.
As discussed before, treatment of the root cause is imperative.A temporary solution for halitosis can be sought with help of various vegetables such as cinnamon, cadmium and parsley. These have been shown to reduce bad oral odour and enhance breath freshness.
Halitosis is a condition which is easily treatable. However, the first step in treatment is to maintain perfect oral hygiene, including brushing twice a day, flossing, and using mouthwash. The next step is to adhere to treatment advised by the doctor.