Does Your Breath Pass Smell Test?

The medical term for bad breath is halitosis. It is usually caused by an accumulation of bacteria in the mouth as a result of gum disease, food or plaque. Unfortunately, others may notice halitosis before the sufferer does.

Experts say that at least half of us have halitosis at some point in our lives. Some types of bad breath in one culture may not be considered as such in another. Lifestyle may also influence whether certain kinds of “breaths” are smelly and unpleasant. For example, a nonsmoker may find a smoker’s breath unpleasant while another smoker may not.

Preventing, curing or masking bad breath is big business. In most cases, the wide array of mints, gums, mouthwashes and other products for bad breath control the problem for only a short while. It is important to understand what causes bad breath in order to put an end to it.

What Causes Bad Breath?

  • What you eat affects the air you exhale. Certain foods, such as garlic and onions, contribute to objectionable breath odor. Once the food is absorbed into the bloodstream, it is transferred to the lungs, where it is expelled. Odors will continue until the body eliminates the food.
  • Experts say that at least 90 percent of bad-breath cases are caused by poor dental hygiene. If you don’t brush and floss daily, particles of food remain in the mouth, collecting bacteria that can cause bad breath. Improperly cleaned dentures can also harbor odor-causing bacteria and food particles.
  • One of the warning signs of gum disease is persistent bad breath or a bad taste in the mouth. Periodontal (gum) disease is caused by plaque, the sticky, colorless film of bacteria that constantly forms on teeth. The bacteria create toxins that irritate the gums.
  • Tobacco products cause bad breath, stain teeth, irritate gum tissue and reduce one’s ability to taste foods. Tobacco users are more likely to suffer from periodontal disease and are at greater risk for developing oral cancer.
  • Bad breath may be the sign of a medical disorder, such as a local infection in the respiratory tract (nose, throat, windpipe, lungs), chronic sinusitis, postnasal drip, chronic bronchitis, diabetes, gastrointestinal disturbance, liver or kidney ailment. If your dentist determines that your mouth is healthy, you may be referred to your family doctor or a specialist.

How To Treat And Prevent Bad Breath

  • Eliminating periodontal disease and maintaining good oral hygiene is essential to reducing bad breath. Schedule regular dental visits for a professional cleaning and checkup.
  • Brush twice a day with fluoride toothpaste to remove food debris and plaque. Electric toothbrushes help eliminate a lot of the plaque that causes bad breath.
  • Use floss once a day to clean between your teeth. Flossing helps to remove food debris that is trapped between the teeth.
  • Scrape your tongue with a tongue scraper. Many odor-causing bacteria reside in the pores of the tongue.
  • If the odor is due to gum disease, your dentist can either treat the disease or refer you to a periodontist, a specialist in treating gum tissues.
  • Avoid certain foods that cause you to have bad breath, such as onions, garlic and pastrami. Alcoholic beverages often cause bad breath, too.
  • Avoid using tobacco products. Any kind of tobacco can cause halitosis.
  • If you wear removable dentures, take them out at night. Brush the dentures and soak them overnight in a disinfecting solution.