What Is Halitosis and How Can You Manage It?
Halitosis, bad breath, oral malodour. From the Latin halitus meaning breath and Greek -osis meaning abnormal condition. We’ve all had it occasionally, right? Swish with some mouthwash. Brush your teeth. That’s the usual method of dealing with it and it does help in the short term. But why do we have bad breath in the first place? How can we manage it? Most researchers put the chronic bad breath problem around 50% of most populations. It can be a serious problem for some people. No joke.
In this article, we’ll explain to you the how, when, where, and why of this malodorous dragon and offer some therapeutic steps you can take to not only minimize the impact on your oral health, but maybe even improve your social life!
First we’ll cover the physical factors:
How - Our mouths are full of bacteria. When these bacteria mix with and decompose food particles that are not brushed out or removed from the mouth, malodorous sulfide gases are formed. Decayed teeth and gum disease can significantly increase the problem.
When - It appears that bad breath may be worst in the late morning due to drying of the mouth during sleep. Another prominent time of the day is late afternoon. Lower levels are found in the early afternoon.
Where - Ninety percent of bad breath cases originate in the mouth. A whitish or colored coating of the tongue surface is the most common indicator of odor-causing byproducts of combined food particles and bacteria. The other ten percent of malodorous breath is caused by non-oral conditions.
Why - In almost all instances of halitosis, we neglect to make sure our mouth is in the very best condition by not scheduling regular dental cleanings and checkups to find and eliminate the causes of bad breath such as untreated tooth decay.
But there are more than just physical effects of Halitosis.
Psychological issues caused by bad breathcan interfere with and negatively affect social interactions and relationships.
Non-Oral Causes of Bad Breath
Bad breath may be a symptom of a non-dental disease or even prescription medication. These may include stomach, esophagus, and sinus problems. Persistent and severe bad breath may indicate a more serious condition for whicha doctor visit will bein order.
Take this bad breath quiz to test your knowledge.
Managing Bad Breath
There are a number of healthy oral hygiene habits and minor lifestyle changes you can adopt to help physically tame “the beast”.
- Brush your teeth after every time you eat. Choose a fluoride toothpaste with antibacterial properties.
- Use an antibacterial mouth rinse. Some people may benefit from a prescription chlorhexidine mouthwash, usually provided by a dentist.
- Change your toothbrush regularly. Bacteria can build up in a toothbrush and contribute to bad breath.
- Floss your teeth at least once a day. If you have really bad breath, why not do it twice a day?
- Brush your tongue! Use a regular tooth brush or a tongue scraper.
- If you have a denture, partial denture, or any other removable dental appliance, make sure you take it out and clean it according to your dentist’s instruction!
- Keep hydrated. A dry mouth substantially increases the chances for bad breath. If you have the chronic dry mouth condition called xerostomia, use a synthetic saliva substitute such as Biotene. You may have to consider giving up caffeinated beverages as they can cause dry mouth conditions. Doing so may also help prevent staining of your teeth as well. If you smoke, pick your poison:bad breath or…
- Try a few changes in your diet. Avoid foods that are known to cause bad breath, like onions and garlic.
- Herbal home remedies include chewing and freshening your mouth with lemon or orange rind, cloves, fennel seeds, aniseeds, fresh parsley, basil, mint, or cilantro.
There is a small cohort of individuals who have, or develop, psychological issues surrounding malodorous breath, including halitophobia, which is an abnormal fear of having bad breath. Consultation with a psychologist may be helpful.
It’s up to you! Remember, to be effective in the long run, your management of halitosis needs to become a lifestyle habit. Follow the steps in this article and be more confident socially and in your general oral health. You'll find more helpful and informative dental topics here.