Halitosis is a medical term used to describe bad breath. This condition can have a surprisingly significant impact on the sufferer's wellbeing; it can make them feel self-conscious when interacting with others and even lead to them speaking less than they would like to during conversations. Read on to learn about the causes of and the treatments for this issue.
Causes of halitosis
Whilst there are many different things which can cause bad breath, poor oral hygiene, xerostomia (more frequently referred to as dry mouth) and acid reflux are some of the most common culprits.
Failing to maintain a consistent oral hygiene routine will result in the accumulation of food particles in your mouth, which will, in turn, encourage the growth of bacteria not only on your teeth, but also on your tongue and gums. In addition to increasing your risk of developing periodontal disease, an excessive amount of bacteria can also lead to halitosis.
Dry mouth also contributes to bad breath. Saliva serves several purposes, one of which is to keep your mouth clean. This liquid helps to rinse away tiny food particles which, if left to fester, would otherwise result in unpleasant odours. A lack of saliva can, therefore, result in halitosis. Dehydration, salivary gland disorders and certain medications (such as diuretics, antidepressants and antihistamines) can all contribute to dry mouth and subsequently, bad breath.
Acid reflux is another known source of bad breath. This condition, which causes the contents of the stomach (including acid, bile and half-digested food) to flow backwards up the oesophagus can result in your mouth developing a very sour odour.
Treatments for halitosis
The way halitosis is treated will depend on the root cause. If it is the result of a lack of oral hygiene, you can rectify this issue simply by improving your current routine. For example, rather than carelessly swishing your toothbrush around your mouth for a few seconds every morning and evening, set a timer for two to three minutes and spend that period carefully brushing every single tooth, paying close attention to the areas where the teeth meet the gum line. Additionally, it may be worth investing in a tongue scraper, to remove the odour-causing bacteria that can quickly accumulate in this area of your mouth. Making a bi-annual trip to your dentist for a scale and polish will also go a long way towards improving your bad breath.
If you discover that you suffer from dry mouth, you can reduce the impact this condition has on your breath by making a conscious effort to stay hydrated. Track your water intake throughout the day, and reduce your consumption of tea and coffee, which can act as diuretics that speed up the loss of water from the body. Chewing sugar-free gum can also help to increase the production of saliva.
Lastly, should you find out that acid reflux is the cause of your halitosis, you can improve your breath by managing the symptoms of this underlying condition. There are several ways to do this; you can avoid foods that trigger it (such as tomatoes, chocolate and spicy sauces, for instance) and eat multiple small meals throughout the day, rather than two or three large ones. Additionally, you may want to take some over-the-counter antacids. If the problem persists, you may need to speak to your doctor about getting a prescription for a proton-pump inhibitor; this is a type of medication which reduces the amount of acid that the stomach produces. Talk to your doctor or dentist for more information.Share