At least once or twice in everyone’s life, it happens: you jump out of bed and say “Good morning” to your favorite houseplant, only to have it shrivel up and die from the smell of your breath.
Perhaps that is a slight exaggeration, but it is true that everyone has bad breath occasionally. Most bad breath is caused by bacteria that build up during the night. In these cases, it can usually be eliminated by brushing your teeth. If this is not the case and your breath is consistently bad, it is called halitosis.
A Problem in the Mouth
Chronic halitosis can originate from several places in the body, but it usually stems from a problem in the mouth. Bacteria feed on food particles lodged in the mouth, and if your toothbrush fails to remove them, they release unpleasant odors. Good oral hygiene and regular dental check-ups can help you avoid bad breath. Avoiding sweets and substituting healthy, fibrous food such as apples can also keep the teeth cleaner. If these practices do not solve the problem, there are a few problem areas which you may want to pay special attention to.
The Tongue: The tongue is the most common source of halitosis. It often harbors bacteria at the back of the mouth or in the minute cracks and crevices on the surface of the tongue. Some sources recommend brushing the tongue with a toothbrush, but a toothbrush many just spread the germs around the tongue instead of removing them. Instead, it is more effective to use a specialized tongue cleaning tool. These are about the cost of a toothbrush, and they are more effective at cleaning the uneven surface of the tongue. Be sure to clean the underside of the tongue and all the way to the back of the tongue, because this is where germs are most likely to hide.
Dry Mouth: Some medications may dehydrate the mouth, which can lead to bad breath. If you have a dry feeling in the mouth, drink lots of water and hold the water in your mouth for few moments before you swallow. It may also help to use a mouthwash, but avoid mouthwashes with alcohol in them, because these can further dry the mouth.
Hidden Food: Many mouths have gaps between teeth or other small crevices in which food gets stuck and decays. This can also happen if you have damaged or faulty dental work, or if you have dentures which are incompletely cleaned. Take extra time to clean trouble spots, and if you have dentures, clean them thoroughly every day as recommended by the manufacturer. If trouble persists, then contact your dentist for a check-up.
The Tonsils: Sometimes bad breath can stem from a problem with your tonsils. This is often the case if they are chronically infected. If you suspect a problem in your tonsils, consult your doctor.
Smoking: Use of tobacco products can contribute to bad breath because the tobacco causes bacteria to build up faster in the mouth. Quitting tobacco use is the best way to deal with this problem; if this is not feasible, at least pay close attention to your oral hygiene.
Sinus Problems: A severe and lasting sinus infection can cause post-nasal drip, where bacteria fall from the nasal cavity into the mouth. If this occurs, consult a doctor.
Some cases of chronic halitosis are caused by another chronic and severe health problem. When this is the case, the health problem is almost always accompanied by other severe symptoms. Examples of disorders that lead to bad breath include pneumonia, bronchitis or systemic kidney failure. If you have a chronic disease, ask your physician how the symptom of halitosis can be mitigated.
Fortunately, most causes of halitosis have a simple remedy: good oral hygiene and thorough cleaning. If you suspect that you have bad breath but cannot fix it, discuss the problem with your dentist. He or she may be able to find the right remedy.