Bad breath (halitosis) is usually caused by bacteria somewhere in the mouth but other causes that affect the airways, esophagus and stomach can also lead to bad breath.
Factors that affect the mouth and cause bad breath
- Dental decay
- Gum disease.
- Food stagnation between the teeth.
- Dry mouth.
- Excessive bacterial activity on the tongue, possibly due to postnasal drip (catarrh coming down the back of the throat from the sinuses and nasal passages).
- Throat or tonsil infection.
Factors that affect the airways and cause bad breath
- Foreign body.
- Hindered air or mucus flow.
- Bronchiectasis (dilation of the bronchi of the lungs, usually from previous infection).
Factors that affect the esophagus and stomach and cause bad breath
- Gastritis and food reflux.
- Food stagnation.
In rare cases, bad breath can be a sign of a significant general health problem, so it should not be ignored. However, the usual cause is oral, which can often be treated to resolve the problem.
How do you know if you have bad breath?
Here are some useful pointers, so you don’t have to rely on others telling you.
- Lick the inner surface of your wrist. Wait a few seconds and sniff the licked area. Is there an odour?
- Do you smoke at times other than mealtimes when the odour is diluted by food, drink and saliva?
- Do your gums look swollen or puffy and do they bleed when you brush them?
- Does your dentist or hygienist comment on your gum disease (gingivitis) and suggest more efficient brushing and flossing?
Start with the dentist and hygienist, because the root of the problem is usually dental.
But what do you can do to protect yourself? Following these tips can help you prevent bad breath as well as keep your mouth healthy on a daily basis.
- Avoid smoking, alcohol and spicy foods.
- Clean your mouth after eating milk products, fish and meat.
- Chewing sugar-free gum helps because it encourages the flow of saliva without contributing to tooth decay.
- Use a mouthwash to get rid of bacteria and bits of food that you may have missed when brushing.
- Deodorizing mouth sprays can mask halitosis in the short term, but you need antibacterial and antiseptic preparations with a longer duration of action to make any lasting difference.
- Drink plenty of fluids, avoiding too much coffee.
- Eat fresh, fibrous vegetables.