Everyone has bad breath occasionally. But some people constantly have bad breath, an embarrassing problem that can make one socially miserable.
Chronic bad breath, medically known as halitosis – Latin for “bad breath” is something that brushing, mouthwashes, and mints can’t fix. In many cases, these products only offer a temporary solution without addressing the root issues. More than just “morning breath” which is caused by stagnation of saliva in the mouth and food particles, chronic is often a symptom of other health problems.
What causes bad breath?
Your dental hygiene is wanting: The first thing you should fix when you realise that you have bad breath is fixing your dental hygiene. A 2000 Swedish study linked calculus, plaque, and scarce dental visits to persistent halitosis. Simply put, if you’re not brushing twice a day, flossing once a day, and keeping up with your dentist’s appointments, you’re more likely to suffer from halitosis.
When you don’t brush or floss, food particles get trapped in your mouth and encourage bacterial growth – which leads to bad breath and developing dental cavities. Poor oral hygiene can eventually lead to more serious problems such as gum disease. Although recent studies, including one conducted by the Associated Press in 2016, claim that there’s insufficient proof to back up the benefits of flossing, dentists still recommend the practice as an essential part of oral hygiene.
Maybe your food choices are to blame: Do you love adding garlic to your food? Do you eat fish often? Do you add Kenyan kachumbari to almost all your meals? This could explain why you have bad breath.
Strong-smelling foods often lead to bad breath. The problem usually persists until the food has completely passed out of your system. Therefore, brushing or masking the odor with breath mints might not work. If you suspect that your bad breath is caused by the foods you eat, you can eliminate them from your diet.
You might have a dry mouth: Medically known as xerostomia, a dry mouth is one of the leading causes of halitosis. Saliva is essential in keeping your mouth moist, neutralising acids produced by plaque, and washing away dead cells that accumulate in your mouth. When you don’t have sufficient saliva in your mouth, the bacteria and debris in your mouth start to break down – creating bad breath.
There are lots of things which can lead to dry mouth. These include certain medications (such as for blood pressure, antihistamines, antidepressants, diuretics and anti-inflammatories), radiation treatments, salivary gland diseases, diabetes, sleep apnea, mouth breathing, and autoimmune disorders.
Dry mouth is also common in people with eating disorders such as bulimia and anorexia, and in pregnant women. Other factors that can lead to halitosis include stress, anxiety, and depression. Left untreated, dry mouth can eventually cause tooth decay, dental cavities, or even loss of teeth.
You might have gum disease: Chronic bad breath could indicate that you have gum disease. Also referred to as periodontal disease or gingivitis, gum disease usually forms as a result of plaque buildup on your teeth, causing toxins to develop and aggravate your gums. Bleeding gums is a common sign of gum disease. Other symptoms include tenderness, redness, and swelling of gums. Other than poor oral hygiene, gum disease can also be caused by other health conditions such as diabetes. Left untreated, gum disease can cause serious dental issues such as abscesses, receding gums, and even tooth loss.
You have a respiratory infection: Infections of the respiratory system such as bronchitis, sinusitis, tuberculosis, pneumonia, emphysema, asthma, influenza, pulmonary abscess, and chronic postnasal drip can cause bad breath. This is because these infections usually cause an increase in mucus production, which in turn encourages buildup of bacteria that cause bad breath. Lung cancer also causes a distinctive bad breath, a symptom which is now being used in early lung cancer detection.
You have a gastrointestinal disease: Disease in the digestive system is behind some cases of stinking breath. The gastrointestinal diseases that often cause halitosis include Gastrooesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD), bloating and bowel obstruction or constipation.
When you have other diseases and conditions: People with diabetes are likely to suffer from bad breath. This is because inadequate insulin production may cause them to burn fat and produce ketones. Ketones are usually released in breath, producing a sickly sweet odour. Ketogenic diets, which help your body burn fat and release ketones, can also have a similar effect. Other diseases which cause halitosis include chronic liver failure and kidney problems.
When you’re taking certain medication: As previously mentioned, there are many types of medications which can have ‘dry mouth’ as a side effect. Additionally, there are some drugs that when broken down in the body release chemicals that can be carried through your bloodstream to your breath.
Getting rid of bad breath
Here are some awesome tips to help you ditch bad breath:
· Brush your teeth twice a day (in the morning after breakfast, and in the evening after dinner) with a fluoridated toothpaste. As an additional precaution, floss your teeth once a day.
· Don’t forget to brush your tongue. A dirty tongue is a rich breeding ground for bacteria. When brushing your teeth, always devote some time to brushing your tongue. You might also want to invest in a tongue scraper.
· If you have a dry mouth, drink enough fluids during the day to keep you adequately hydrated. You should also consider over-the-counter moisturising agents such as dry mouth sprays, rinses, or gels.
· If you have another illness or condition which could be responsible for bad breath, or suspect that your bad breath might be caused by the prescription medication you’re taking, consult a doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment.
· Chew anise or fennel seeds, cloves, or cinnamon sticks. They have antiseptic properties which help control bacterial growth in your mouth. Their scents can also help mask stinky breath.
· Remove your dentures. If you wear dentures, always remove and clean them at night to prevent build-up or odour-causing bacteria.
· Visit the dentist for checkups regularly. After all, oral causes are responsible for most cases of bad breath.