“Bad breath”, more correctly referred to as halitosis, can be the result of many, varied causes.
The most common sources are certain foodstuffs, gum disease, tooth decay, smoking and prolonged dry mouth syndrome.
Additionally, some cases are linked to dieting, sinus or respiratory infections, medical disorders and the use of some prescription medications.
In the vast majority of cases, the origin of bad breath is linked to an oral source. The chemical substances, which are responsible for causing the problem, are referred to as volatile sulphur compounds (VSCs).
Foods such as garlic are well known as being problematic in creating bad breath. They are absorbed into the blood stream and transferred to the lungs where they are eventually expelled.
Gum disease, properly known as periodontal disease has a warning sign linked to halitosis production. A film of bacteria causes the disease, this constantly builds up on the surface of our teeth. These bacteria produce toxins that damage the health of our gums. In the latter stages of the disease, the bone and related structures that support teeth become damaged. This can lead to the eventual loss of the affected teeth.
Dentures, (both full and partial) that are not cleaned properly and left out at night can also commonly harbour odour causing food particles and bacteria.
Dry mouth or xerostomia cases bad breath by decreasing the flow of saliva, which is necessary to cleanse the mouth naturally. This condition is often linked with a mouth breathing habit or the use of certain medications. It can be relieved by the use of sugar free sweets and gums, increasing fluid intake or prescribing artificial saliva.
All tobacco products induce bad breath, stain the teeth and reduce taste whilst irritating oral tissue.
What can be done to help? Regular dental reviews are imperative. Maintaining good oral hygiene is essential: brush at least twice a day (including your tongue) and use floss or interdental cleaning devices. If you are a smoker, reduce your total daily intake.
Regular scaling from your dentist or hygienist is important. Seek their advice on your oral hygiene routine.
Mouthwashes can be very helpful in combating bad breath; these are usually of the antimicrobial type.
A new approach to the problem is the use of alpha-ionone, found in tomatoes, now produced as a mouthwash and lozenges that help break down the odour causing volatile sulphur compounds.