It can be embarrassing, however, bad breath, also known as halitosis, is a common oral health issue that almost everyone will experience in their life. Naturally the causes and severity of bad breath will vary from person to person and therefore, so too will the treatments available.
Bad breath, or halitosis, is quite simply defined as an unpleasant smell that originates from your mouth. It can be especially common in the morning when you first wake up and people refer to it as 'morning breath' or amongst researchers and in the dental community 'morning halitosis'. These more mild cases, especially of morning breath, won't necessarily mean that there is an unlaying medical or dental issue that requires attention. In a lot of cases, simply improving your oral hygiene habits will resolve the issue of bad breath, however, if it persists, then we would recommend that you come in and see one of our dental professionals.
This is actually a really good question, as in a lot of cases, other people will be too polite to tell you and it can be very difficult to judge if your own breath smells. If you think back to the last time someone you know had bad breath, did you tell them? Did they know? Without knowing if your breath has an unpleasant smell you might not be picking up on the signs of an unlaying dental health issue.
Naturally, as is usually the case in life, the logically simplest solution to determining if you breath smells can also be the hardest. Asking a friend or relative to smell your breath would provide the fastest and easiest answer, however, practically that might be a bit awkward and strange, particularly if you ask more frequently when trying to treat bad breath.
Failing the first method, breathing out through your mouth and into your cupped hands is another technique. Simply breath in through your nose slowly and you may be able to tell if your breath has an unpleasant smell this way. Alternatively, you can lick the back of your hand or your wrist, after washing them of course, then waiting a couple of seconds before smelling the area.
If you are still unsure or concerned, just come in and see one of our dentists or hygienists. This way you hopefully won't live with halitophobia, or the fear that you have bad breath, when in fact your breath smells totally normal. Whilst it may feel awkward asking one of our dental professionals, we can assure you we get asked that question all the time. This way, we can give you a professional opinion on your breath and recommend possible treatment.
Bad breath can be caused by a range of issues. The most simplest can be poor oral hygiene habits, however, some may be more serious unlaying dental health issues.
One of the most common causes comes from gum disease, also known as periodontal disease. The bacteria from gum disease produce sulphur and can give a foul odour which is very unpleasant. These bacteria are usually located under the gum, tonsils and tongue. During this process, these bacteria break down the proteins in your diet at a faster rate, resulting in odorous volatile sulphur compounds being released.
Bad breath may also be brought about in a more temporary way, i.e. one that will pass naturally usually after a short period of time. These causes can include smoking, the consumption of alcohol, consuming certain kinds of food particularly those containing garlic or onion, dry mouth possibly due to dehydration and even sleeping. As mentioned above, morning halitosis is common and occurs because you simply produce less saliva whilst you are asleep. Saliva is a key component to keeping your mouth clean, therefore, without it, unpleasant odours may arises.
Other causes of bad breath can then range in severity occurring either inside your mouth or possibly from another part of your body. Things like trapped food between your teeth and along the gum line will not pass naturally themselves and will require you to brush your teeth and floss to alleviate the issue. If this is not undertaken and good oral hygiene not maintained, then gum disease, particularly periodontal disease, along with mouth infections from possibly tooth cavities, or more generally ulcers or unhealed wounds, can result in bad breath.
Whilst less common, things such as throat infections, tonsillitis, infections of the airways or lungs, acid reflux, kidney disease, hepatic encephalopathy (where the liver cannot remove toxins), fasting, certain medications and a virtual plethora of other causes can all lead to bad breath.
As you may have guessed by the number of causes that can bring about bad breath, there is no one treatment or 'silver bullet' for halitosis or bad breath.
The first thing we always recommend when experiencing bad breath, is to review your oral health and hygiene habits. Make sure your brushing technique is correct and that you are always brushing twice a day. Flossing is also an important part of the process to avoid the build-up of the foods between your teeth, along with a mouthwash at the end.
If the issue does not improve, then the next step would be to make an appointment and come in and see our hygiene department. In a lot of cases a professional hygiene clean by our team can overcome the issue of bad breath quickly. Naturally, if tooth decay or gum disease is present, then follow up visits may be required to treat the underlying issues over time.
Whilst we are able to help almost everyone who comes in to see us for bad breath treatment, if the cause of halitosis is not from the mouth or throat and the condition does not improve, we will discuss with you other options, including seeing a doctor or a specialist. These cases are usually very rare, however, our team will assist you if this does arise.
In terms of simple tips to help avoid bad breath we would recommend the following: