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Bad breath and how to treat it

Bad breath, medically called halitosis, is a common problem that can cause significant psychological distress. There are a number of potential causes but it can often result from poor dental health habits or possibly be a sign of other health problems. Anyone can suffer from bad breath; it is estimated that 1 in 4 people have bad breath on a regular basis. It is the third most common reason that patients seek dental care (after tooth decay and gum disease).

Causes of bad breath:  If you don’t brush and floss your teeth daily, food particles can remain in your mouth, promoting bacterial growth between teeth, around the gums and on the tongue. In addition, odor-causing bacteria and food particles can cause bad breath if dentures are not properly cleaned. Smoking or chewing tobacco can also cause bad breathe, stain teeth and reduce your ability to taste foods and also irritate your gums. Drugs and certain medications can reduce saliva and produce odors as they break down and release chemicals in the breath. Crash diets, mouth, nose and throat conditions such as Tonsilitis, gastric reflux and even some metabolic diseases, liver failure and cancers can cause halitosis due to specific mixes of chemicals that may be produced. Persistent bad breath or a bad taste in the mouth may be  a warning sign of gum (periodontal) disease. Gum disease is caused by the build up of plaque on teeth. Bacteria cause the formation of toxins to form which irritate the gums and if untreated can damage the gums and jaw bones.

Treatment for bad breath:  There is no one treatment for halitosis but bad breathe can be reduced or prevented if you:

  • Practice good oral hygiene – this ensures that cavities are avoided and reduces the likelihood of gum disease. Always brush at least twice a day and preferably after meals. Floss regularly between the teeth and use a toothpaste and mouthwash with an antibacterial agent. Gentle but effective tongue cleaning can also reduce the amount of bacteria that accumulates on the tongue. Make sure dentures, mouthguards and bridges are cleaned as recommended on a daily basis and regularly change your toothbrush every 2-3 months. Regular dental checkups are essential every 6-12 months as is a professional clean from your dentist.
  • Watch your diet – avoid onions, garlic, spicy and sugary foods. Reduce coffee and alcohol consumption. Avoid dry mouth by drinking plenty of water and chewing gum can also help stimulate saliva production.

If breath odor persists, it is recommended to speak to your dentist or pharmacist to find the most effective treatment for you or consult  your doctor for further tests to rule out any other conditions.