Millions of people, at some point in their lives are concerned about bad breath, also known as halitosis. Although there are many causes of bad breath, in 85% of cases, it is due to bacteria in the mouth. Other causes of bad breath include postnasal drip, stress, dry mouth, menstruation, and certain foods such as garlic, onion, smoking, poor diet and alcohol. Some manufacturers claim they have the cure for bad breath, which they insist, comes from gastrointestinal problems, the truth is that this is very rarely the cause of bad breath. However, there are other systemic diseases that may contribute to bad breath such as liver disease, lung disease, respiratory infections, and kidney failure.
When the cause of bad breath is from the mouth, poor oral hygiene, gum disease (periodontal disease), faulty dental restorations and debris buildup (including postnasal drip) on the tongue are the culprit. Certain medications may also cause bad breath indirectly by resulting in dry mouth. When the cause of halitosis is determined, then the treatment is relatively straightforward. Unfortunately, many people are totally unaware that they even have bad breath, while others are obsessed with bad breath, who do not even have it.
In an investigation in Tel Aviv University, Israel, from 1992-1995, people were asked to rate the odors coming from their mouths, tongues and saliva. The results of the study were very interesting. People who worried about bad breath rated their own bad breath levels as being higher than did an impartial odor judge. However, if a person had become accustomed to their own bad breath, they would tend to score their own breath odor lower than would the odor judge. To determine if you do actually have bad breath, and to what level, ask a close family member or trusted friend to help you confirm whether you have bad breath.
Having determined that you do have bad breath, what are the possible treatments? Good oral hygiene is extremely important in fighting it. Good oral hygiene should begin with a professional cleaning with the dentist. Daily upkeep with flossing and brushing of the teeth, gums and the tongue are crucial. Use a soft toothbrush to brush the tongue or use a “tongue scraper”. Brush and floss after meals, and if this is not possible rinse with water, mouthwash or have a piece of fruit or raw vegetable such as an apple or carrot. Chewing on a sprig of parsley is also helpful.
Excessive coffee will dry the mouth and can lead to bad breath. Stay away from foods that will ferment in the deep grooves of the teeth such as deli meat and other red meats and cheeses. Drink plenty of water specially if you have morning breath. Keep water at your bedside and if you awaken to use the bathroom have some water also.
Old and faulty restorations such as fillings and caps, even dentures can harbor bacteria contributing to bad breath. If you have very old fillings or caps (crowns) and suffer from bad breath, it’s a good idea to have your dentist evaluate them. If you smoke, chew tobacco or drink alcohol, you more than likely have bad breath, even though you may not be aware of it.
Mouthwashes containing alcohol are not recommended. They tend to dry the delicate tissues of the mouth, which studies show may contribute to cancer of the mouth. Drink plenty of water, and try a mouthwash with parsley, such as Grace Dental Essential Natural Mouthwash which also contains aloe vera. Products such as breath mints are not recommended since many contain artificial sweeteners such as saccharine.
For temporary relief keep an over-the-counter breath spray in your car or purse lozenges. Using lozenges frequently is not good since it bathes the teeth with sugar and may contribute to cavities. Drinking water is also a temporary bandaid and will mask the odor.
Bad breath which is caused by the mouth is easily treatable. Your dentist should always be the first step.