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Bad Breath: Causes + Treatment

Halitosis, or as is commonly known, bad breath, describes unpleasant odors exhaled on breathing. The smell is usually from an oral source due to bacteria. It has a personal and social impact on those who suffer from it, or believe to suffer from it (apparently, some people talk themselves into thinking their breath stinks on a constant basis! This is called HALITOPHOBIA).

A major origin of bad breath is the mouth, due to breakdown of some proteins into acids known as Amino acids. These amino acids also breakdown and then produce foul smells. Also included in the mouth origin is the tongue. This may be due to poor cleansing of the entire tongue surface or hard to reach areas, such as the back of the tongue, and so enhances accumulation of food debris, dead cells, and bacteria. They then break down and result in the “rotten egg” smell. Gross! Cleaning the tongue effectively should be done with a tongue scraper or a recommended toothbrush.

And then there’s gum disease caused by bacteria below the gum line.
The second major source of halitosis is the nose, and this may be due to sinus infections or foreign individuals –sorry –foreign bodies.

Other origins include the tonsils, stomach (belching is an exception and doesn’t determine halitosis), systemic diseases (possible causes are liver failure, lower respiratory tract infection, renal infections/failure, malignant cancer (carcinoma), diabetes (surprising, right?), and metabolic dysfunction.
Diagnosing halitosis can be done at home or professionally.

Perhaps, the most effective home diagnosis measure is to ask a friend (a very close friend!) or a trusted family member. Well, if you can’t trust anyone enough to smell your breath and tell you if it’s “funky” or not, a better way would be to use a plastic disposable spoon and lightly scrape the posterior back of the tongue and smell the drying residue.

In professional diagnosis, there’s the use of several laboratory methods, including:
i) Halimeter (which is also sensitive to alcohol, and so drinking of alcohol or the use of alcohol-containing mouthwashes should be avoided at least 12 hours prior to testing);
ii) Gas chromatography; and other measures.

To prevent bad breath:
a) Brush your teeth at least twice daily, using fluoride toothpaste – be sure to brush along gum line as well as tooth and tongue surfaces.
b) Floss your teeth at least once daily to remove food between your teeth. Use a mouthwash very often as well, gargling for about 30 seconds before spitting out.
c) Eat a healthy breakfast and more fruits and veggies. EAT LESS MEAT! (Scary for you meat lovers?)
d) Avoid bad breath–causing foods and try to avoid alcoholic beverages as much as possible. They can cause bad breath.
e) Avoid using tobacco products. ANY kind of tobacco can cause halitosis.
f) Dry mouth can have an unpleasant odor sometimes. Suck on sugar-free mints, chew sugar-free gum (also after meals), or drink more water.
g) If you wear dentures, take them out at night, brush and soak in disinfecting solution overnight.
h) See your trusted dentist twice a year for cleaning.
i) Still have bad breath? Then see your family doctor for a diagnosis quickly!

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