Fight Back Against Halitosis
Halitosis is the medical term used to define bad breath. The word halitosis was first introduced to the world in the 1870’s but made popular in the 1920’s by the Listerine company. The correct scientific term for bad breath is oral malodor. Halitosis can be a very embarrassing problem to have. Americans spend approximately $500 million attempting to treat halitosis every year. It’s no surprise then that store shelves are stocked full with gum, mints, mouthwashes and other products designed to counteract bad breath. But many of these products are merely temporary measures and do nothing to treat the condition in the long term. The makers of these products have made a lot of money out of the general population’s desire for fresh breath.
These products promise that your breath can be minty fresh. However, it is only temporarily beneficial at best in controlling breath malodors. Actually, many often contain sugar and alcohol, which may lead to tooth decay and may aggravate certain mouth conditions. The irony of halitosis is that most people have no awareness that they even have halitosis. This is because the cells in the nose that are responsible for the sense of smell actually become unresponsive to the constant flow of bad odor emanating from your mouth. If you have bad breath, you may need to be told, or you may begin to pick up the facial expressions of other people when you’re just too close! Most halitosis originates from something in your mouth. Food can stick in between your teeth, around the gums and on your tongue.
This food will breakdown and combine with bacteria to form plaque. If not cleaned off properly thru proper brushing and flossing, the plaque will cause a foul smell in your mouth. Plaque and the bacteria which feed off of it can cause periodontal disease (gingivitis and periodontitis). Periodontal disease definitely causes a distinctive type of bad breath we call “perio breath”. Other dental causes of halitosis include ill fitting dentures, yeast infections of the mouth, tooth cavities, and tobacco use. Smoking actually causes your mouth to dry out and creates its own unpleasant mouth odor.
Tobacco users are also more likely to have periodontal disease(about 50% of all smokers have some form of periodontal disease). Halitosis can also be made worse by the types of foods you eat. Many foods may cause bad breath which can include onions, garlic, cheese, certain spices, orange juice and soda. Once these foods become digested, their oils are absorbed into your bloodstream and carried into the lungs. The odor is given off in your breath until all of the food is out of your body. If you eat foods with strong odors, brushing and flossing, even mouthwash simply is a temporary cover up. The odor will linger with you until the foods have passed through your body completely. Dry mouth or xerostomia can also cause halitosis.
Saliva is needed to wet and cleanse the mouth by neutralizing acids produced by plaque and washing away dead cells that accumulate on the tongue, gums, and cheeks. If they are not removed, these cells decompose and can cause bad breath. Dry mouth may be caused by the side effects of various medications (for example, some antidepressants, anti psychotics, antihistamines, decongestants, and medications to reduce high blood pressure), salivary gland problems, snoring, sleep apnea, or continuous breathing through the mouth. A lack of saliva at night deprives the mouth of oxygen, which can promote the spread of anaerobic germs. This is why most everyone suffers from what’s commonly referred to as “morning breath”.
The bad odors do not come from the mouth in approximately 10% of the cases. Many other diseases and illnesses may cause halitosis. They include, respiratory tract infections such as pneumonia or bronchitis, chronic sinus infections, postnasal drip, diabetes, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), and liver or kidney disease. Some of these conditions can have their diagnosis confirmed (along with other medical tests) by the presence of their halitosis. Diseases, such as some cancers and metabolic disorders, can cause a breath odor that is distinctive as a result of the chemicals they produce. Diabetics with uncontrolled glucose levels can have a fruity breath odor from chemicals called ketones. And chronic reflux of stomach acids has also been associated with halitosis.
Treatment and Prevention of Halitosis
The most effective way to treat halitosis is thru maintenance of proper oral hygiene along with regular appointments with the dentist. Regular brushing, flossing, rinsing, and scraping of your tongue can also help keep halitosis at bay. There is one product that will not just cover and mask the odor by actually neutralizing the chemicals at the back of your throat. This product is called Closys.
Helpful hints for getting rid of Halitosis:
- -Tooth brushing 2-3 times per day. Change tooth brush as recommended.
- -Before bedtime, clean your tongue with toothbrush or use a special tongue scraper. This will remove any particles and bacteria lodged in folds of the tongue. A good example of this is the GUM dual action tongue cleaner.
- -Use an electric toothbrush, such as the Rotadent, to be more effective in your brushing.
- -Keep your nose and sinuses clean. -Stimulate salivary flow by chewing sugarless gum during the day. This will keep the mouth awash with saliva. This can include Trident white among others.
- -Drink lots of water daily to keep your mouth wet and to help rinse away odor forming bacteria and food particles.
- -Lower coffee and alcohol drinking.
- -Ask your doctor or pharmacist whether your medications are causing problems of dry mouth that may be leading to bad breath.
- -Schedule and maintain regular visits to your dentist.
Marielaina Perrone DDS