‘Halitosis’ also commonly known as ‘bad breath’ is a condition characterized by foul smelling odors emanating from the mouth. Have you been told you’ve got bad breath? Take a chill pill..! You can easily fix it on your own. This problem is quite common & almost 30% of the world’s population suffers from it.
Nonetheless, if your breath is less than the best, then you may be wondering what causes bad breath? Let us now take a closer look at some of the causes that attribute to foul smelling breath.
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Why do you have an unpleasant smell in your breath??
There are a number of causes that can be attributed to bad breath. However, it is widely accepted that the primary cause for halitosis is - poor oral hygiene!! So then, what is oral hygiene? Why is it so necessary??
‘Oral hygiene’ is the practice of keeping the mouth & teeth clean to prevent dental problems like bad breath, tooth decay and gum disease. The prime purpose of maintaining oral hygiene is to prevent plaque build-up which is the main culprit or the root cause of all the other problems that we may encounter.
Well, now let’s try to understand more about poor oral hygiene & other factors that affect our oral as well as our overall health.
What are the factors that affect our oral health??
Poor oral hygiene
Dental & oral health is an essential part of your overall health & well-being. Poor oral hygiene refers to the inability of a person to follow the very basic processes that ensure sound oral health like- brushing, flossing etc. leading to a host of dental problems which in turn affect the overall well- being of an individual.
Poor oral hygiene can lead to accumulation of plaque, dental cavities & gum disease, and has also been linked to heart disease, diabetes & cancer. It also causes bad breath. Maintaining healthy teeth and gums is a lifelong commitment. The earlier you learn the proper hygiene habits such as brushing, flossing and limiting your sugar intake, the easier it will be to avoid costly dental procedures & lifelong issues.
Consumption of strong smelling foods like onion & garlic:
Strong smelling foods like onion, garlic often lead to bad breath. Digestion of these foods leads to the release of volatile sulphur compounds like hydrogen sulphide, di-methyl sulphide, and methyl mercaptans etc. into your blood stream. When the blood reaches your lungs for exchange of gases, you will find that the exhaled air carries an unpleasant smell.
The primary reason for bad breath is poor oral hygiene .Symptoms like plaque formation, dental cavities, swollen & bleeding gums; alterations in gum color and bad breath indicate that you are not taking good care of your oral cavity.
However, Bad breath could also be due to some underlying diseases as well like- Gingivitis, Periodontitis, tonsillitis, sinusitis, diabetes mellitus, liver cirrhosis, uremia, lung carcinoma, renal failure, mouth & stomach ulcers & acid reflux disease. Other conditions include keto-acidosis, bronchiectasis etc.
Intermittent fasting & keto diet.
People dedicated to the cult of intermittent fasting or the ketogenic diet must be familiar with one of its unspoken side-effects, which is halitosis. While this regime is praised for its unparalleled ability to burn fats, it can also causes halitosis. This is due to accumulation of ketone bodies (by-product of fat metabolism) in the blood, which has a strong smell.
Certain drugs can cause foul smelling breath. They may also affect the production of saliva leading to dry mouth. Any drug that dries out your mouth, thereby depriving it of saliva is problematic & therefore needs to be replaced. Some of these include – antihistamines, decongestants, anti-depressants & the ones used to treat angina like nitrates (Sorbitrate). These produce odors as they breakdown & release chemicals into the breath. Tranquilizers like phenothiazines also cause bad odor. Individuals who take vitamins in large doses are also prone to have bad breath.
Dentures that are not cleaned properly & regularly can turn out to be a breeding ground for bacteria that cause halitosis. Therefore, it becomes mandatory to get your dentures, bridge or a mouth guard cleaned on a daily basis. Cleaning prevents bacteria from building up & causing foul smell.
Foods that dry out your mouth:
Drinks rich in alcohol will dry out your mouth. A dry mouth helps the bacteria causing bad breath to grow rapidly, since there is no much saliva being produced there to flush out the bacteria. Similarly cigarette smoking also dries out the mouth very quickly. So, kick the habit of chewing tobacco or its products, smoking & consuming alcohol for your own good.
Above discussed are some of the probable causes for bad breath. Refrain from indulging in any of these activities as they are sure to cause more of harm than good.
What are the consequences of poor oral hygiene?
According to research studies, effects of poor oral hygiene are an array of dental and oral diseases including bad breath or halitosis. Preventing plaque build-up is the key to overcome this problem.
Your oral cavity is an abode to all sorts of bacteria, viruses and fungi. Some of the bacteria belong there making up the normal flora of your mouth.
They are generally harmless. But a diet high in sugar creates conditions in which the acid producing pathogenic bacteria can thrive. This acid erodes the tooth enamel causing dental cavities. However, this problem can be fixed by visiting the dentist who will clean the tooth & fill the cavity with appropriate material to restore and protect the tooth.
Bacteria near your gum line thrive in a sticky matrix called the plaque. If the plaque is not removed regularly by brushing and flossing, it accumulates, hardens into a yellow or brown kind of mineral deposit called tartar or calculus that migrates down the length of your tooth. This can inflame your gums causing gingivitis, a condition in which the gums get swollen, bleed and produce a foul smelling breath.
Increased inflammation causes gums to begin to pull away from your teeth. This may result in formation of pockets into which eventually pus may collect. This more advanced stage of gum disease is called periodontitis which destroys the supporting structures including the bone eventually leading to loss of teeth. There are many factors that contribute to this problem like- poor brushing habits, frequent snacking of sugary foods, diabetes, hormonal changes especially in women, acid reflux or heartburn etc.
Food and bacteria that accumulate on the tongue may also cause a foul smell. Regular tongue scraping is therefore necessary to remove the debris from the surface of the tongue & to prevent bad breath.
So, do incorporate brushing, flossing & scraping into your daily regimen. Practice it religiously if you wish you save your tooth & breath!
Furthermore, poor oral hygiene in the long run may cause several potential health issues such as cancer, diabetes, inflammation of blood vessels, hypertension etc. Hence, oral health should not be ignored under any circumstances.
When to see a dentist?
Normally , People associate foul smelling breath with poor oral hygiene or a recent meal, but sometimes the reason can be more gruesome than what we expect. Hence, if you find that your bad breath isn’t improving with home treatment, then do not wait until you develop symptoms, you should make an appointment & see your dentist immediately!
Actually, the best thing to do is to visit your dentist every 6 months. This will allow the dentist to arrest the problem even before it pops up. Pay attention to these warning signs!!
Bleeding or swollen gums even after brushing & flossing.
Chronic bad breath.
Sudden sensitivity to hot and cold beverages.
Pain or tooth-ache.
Pain while chewing or biting.
Swelling on the face or cheek.
Chronic dry mouth
Ulcers, sores that don’t heal even after a few weeks.
If you experience any of these symptoms accompanied by high fever, you should contact your dentist
What can I do about Halitosis?
Our teeth preserve our speech & eating functions. So, we cannot afford losing our teeth. What about our breath? Isn’t the foul smelling breath humiliating? But, the good news is that- You can easily improve your breath & keep your gums & teeth healthy at the same time. Try some of these simple steps to make your mouth feel fresh & clean!!
#1 Clean your teeth & gums!
Many diseases are linked to poor oral hygiene. If you don’t brush and floss well, tiny chunks of food get caught between your teeth allowing the bacteria to multiply. This can give off an odor like that of a rotten egg. Toothpaste or mouth wash may mask it for a while, but can’t fix the problem. Hence, it is recommended to brush your teeth with fluoride toothpaste at least twice a day (morning & night). Take care to replace the tooth brushes every three months. It is better to use a tooth-brush with soft, nylon, rounded bristles that allows them to reach all tooth surfaces easily.
#2 Scrape your tongue!
Brushing and flossing alone cannot fix your bad breath because the tongue can house food particles as well as harmful bacteria. To get them out, brush your tongue using a tongue scraper. Rinse your mouth after each use.
#3 Clean your dentures!
If you are using dentures, remove and gently clean your dentures every day. Soak and brush them with a soft bristled brush to remove food, plaque and other deposits. Make sure to remove them at night to prevent bacterial build-up due to consumption of food, rich in sugars & starch.
#4 Fight the dry mouth!
Dry mouth can cause halitosis. This condition occurs when the salivary glands in the mouth are unable to produce enough saliva. The saliva plays a vital role of removing the food debris from the mouth & controls the growth of pathogenic bacteria. The most common cause for dry mouth is dehydration. So, drink plenty of water and keep yourself hydrated so as to avoid dry mouth. Also, Swish cool water after every meal / snack to ensure that there are no food particles sticking to your teeth.
#5 Munch on crunchy fruits & vegetables!
Crunchy fruits & vegetables, rich in fiber are a proven cure for bad breath. They help get rid of the food particles that cling to your teeth, thus prevent bad breath. Hence, it becomes imperative to incorporate raw foods in the diet like celery, apples, carrots, broccoli etc. These crunchy choices increase the flow of saliva that washes away the odor causing debris from the mouth.
#6 Herbs! We Curb!
Chewing strong smelling herbs is one of the best home remedies to ward off bad breath. Chew a few sprigs of parsley, mint, cilantro, basil, thyme, rosemary or any other fresh herb which will fill the breath with a pleasant scent. The chlorophyll in these green plants helps neutralize the bad odor lingering in the mouth.
#7 Add freshness with Citrus!
In addition to being a rich source of vitamin C, citrus fruits like lemon and orange are a great cure for bad breath. The citric acid that is present in it stimulates your salivary glands to produce more saliva which helps remove the unpleasant odor causing material from your mouth. Therefore, consume fruits like citrus, melons or berries liberally. Thus, Vitamin C not only improves oral health but also boosts your immunity.
#8 Chew a minty Gum!
Chewing sugar-free gums with minty flavor, sweetened with xylitol helps you to clean your mouth. Prevent the growth of harmful bacteria that causes bad breath. To add, it will mask your bad breath & help you to produce more saliva. So, you can certainly bank on chewing gums for better oral health!
#9 Stick with Cinnamon!
Chewing a cinnamon stick is one of the oldest home remedies for bad breath. It is rich in essential oil that has the potential to kill the bacteria causing bad smelling odor in the mouth. In addition, cinnamon leaves the mouth with a lovely scent that masks the bad breath immediately.
#10 Try Probiotics!
Probiotics are living micro-organisms principally bacteria that are safe for human consumption and when ingested in sufficient quantities have beneficial effects on human health. Each day we ingest a large number of bacteria. One of the most well-known species, the Lactobacillus, commonly found in yogurt & other fermented foods is the most important probiotic for humans. This bacterium along with several other species is known to substantially improve gut health as well as oral health.
Eating foods rich in probiotics could help combat bad breath as these useful bacteria curtail the growth of pathogenic bacteria in the mouth. A study showed that after 6 weeks of eating yogurt, there was a substantial reduction in the bad breath of the participants. So, eat at least one serving of plain yogurt every day to prevent tooth decay & halitosis.
#11 Drink Milk, the neutralizer!
Bad breath is a common complaint and it is mainly due to the presence of too many harmful bacteria in the mouth. Milk is known to be very effective in controlling bad breath. Drinking a glass of low-fat milk after eating a meal containing garlic, onion etc. would mask the smell of these foods temporarily.
#12 Raid the kitchen shelf!
Some spices like cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, fennel seeds contain aromatic essential oils that leave the mouth fresh & smelling good. To refresh your breath after meals, you can pop a clove into your mouth & dent it with your teeth. Cloves are rich in eugenol, a potent anti-bacterial agent. If not, pop a cardamom or some fennel seeds!
Fennel & coriander seeds along with crushed arecanut make a wonderful ‘mukhwas’ or mouth- freshener, widely used in various parts of India. They have wonderful taste and aroma; improves digestion when eaten after every meal.
#13 Enjoy the Green Tea!
Green tea made from the leaves of Camellia Sinensis . Rich in anti-oxidants, green tea is an effective home remedy for bad breath. It exhibits deodorizing properties & can temporarily add freshness to the breath. Mint too has similar properties. So, you can brew mint tea along with a stick of cinnamon & Keep sipping on it throughout the day to eliminate bad breath.
#14 Swish your mouth out!
Regular rinsing of your mouth with a reliable mouth-wash can prove to be effective in eliminating bad breath. Let’s try making herbal rinse at home by using simple ingredients from the kitchen shelf.
Add a few drops of tea tree oil or pepper mint oil to a cup of warm water. That makes your herbal rinse with unique anti-microbial & anti-inflammatory properties. It is known to significantly reduce the level of bacteria responsible for bad odor.
Swish this solution in your mouth for at least 30 seconds before spitting it out. Follow the same procedure until you have used the entire cup of water. Take care not to swallow the mouth wash as tea tree oil is supposed to be toxic.
#15 Crunch the crunchy Salad!
Add crunchy foods like raw vegetables & fruits to your diet. This can help you to keep your teeth clean & healthy. So, how about opting for something that offers a dual function, nutrition as well as cleansing! Well, a healthy salad prepared out of raw fruits & veggies can serve the purpose! Grated apple, carrots, yogurt, crushed almonds or walnut, topped with a pinch of cinnamon powder makes a great salad. This salad packed with all the vital nutrients not only boosts your general health but also your oral health to a great extent.
#16 Relish the pineapple!
Drink a glass of organic pineapple juice or chew on a slice of pineapple after every meal for one or two minutes. But it’s equally important to rinse your mouth of sugars immediately afterwards.
#17 Avoid foods that sour your breath!
If you wish to have respite from halitosis, avoid eating onion and garlic! They are big offenders! If you can’t do without them, then at least avoid eating them before you go to work or see your friends. Eating food that is oily & spicy causes hyper acidity leading to regurgitation of the acidic contents of the stomach into your mouth, which eventually results in bad breath. Hence minimize the intake of spicy food. Avoid caffeinated beverages, alcohol & sugary foods as well as the bacteria in your mouth simply love them.
#18 Try a salt water rinse!
An easy & simplest way to freshen your breath instantly is to use salt-water rinse. The salt water alters the PH in the mouth & doesn’t allow the bacteria to thrive. This is the most economical method one can ever think of.
#19 Kick the tobacco habit!
Besides causing cancer, smoking can damage your gums, stain your teeth and give you bad breath. So, learn to tame your urges or take the help of a doctor who can help you give up tobacco for good.
#20 Give up the sweet stuff!
Sugary foods are the most important to avoid if you are concerned about foods that cause bad breath. The sugar provides a quick food source for bacteria and allows them to multiply rapidly. Therefore, it is better to avoid eating sugary foods or if you eat make sure you brush your teeth after giving your mouth a good rinsing.
Good oral health translates into good overall health!
Practicing good dental hygiene is of utmost importance & needs to be instilled right since the childhood because dental problems such as cavities, gum diseases not only impair your ability to eat or speak properly, but also affect the quality of life. They also cause lot of physical discomfort, bad breath & life threatening diseases.
Not only that, A person with bad breath feels unattractive, defensive & embarrassed. Your spouse may be less quick in planting the morning kiss, co-workers at your work place may all seem to be mysteriously avoiding you. The reason being-halitosis ! So, Bad breath seems to affect the relationships too ! what you need to realize is that only way to get rid of this problem is to address the root cause & not try to mask it !
In this regard, the traditional modes of treatment have always been adjudged as the best, whether the problem pertains to your oral cavity or your physical self. Emergence of bacterial resistance & a huge list of side-effects to various synthetic drugs have prompted people to turn towards various systems of conventional medicine like homeopathy, ayurveda and aromatherapy for seeking a permanent cure, not only for halitosis but for a whole lot of other diseases affecting the human body.
Some simple remedies have also been discussed here ! Hope they help you!! Good luck !!