Question: I have bad breath and my wife lets me know about it. Please let me know what can I do about it and where it comes from?
Answer: More than 90 million people suffer from chronic halitosis or bad breath. In most cases it originates from the gums and tongue. The odor is caused by bacteria from the decay of food particles, other debris in your mouth, and poor oral hygiene. The decay and debris produce a sulfur compound that causes the unpleasant odor. Bad breath is primarily caused by poor oral hygiene, but can also be caused by retained food particles or gum disease. Proper brushing including brushing the tongue, cheeks, and the roof of the mouth will remove bacteria and food particles. Flossing removes accumulated bacteria, plaque and food that may be trapped between teeth. Mouth rinses are effective in temporary relief of bad breath. Consult your dentist and/or physician if the condition persists.
It also may occur in people who have a medical infection, gum disease, diabetes, kidney failure, or a liver malfunction. Xerostomia (dry mouth) and tobacco also contribute to this problem. Cancer patients who undergo radiation therapy may experience dry mouth. Even stress, dieting, snoring, age and hormonal changes can have an effect on your breath. An odor that comes from the back of your tongue may indicate post-nasal drip. This is where the mucus secretion, which comes from the nose and moves down your throat, gets stuck on the tongue and causes an odor. Bad breath originating in the stomach, however, is considered to be extremely rare.
Saliva is the key ingredient in your mouth that helps keep the odor under control because it helps wash away food particles and bacteria, the primary cause of bad breath. When you sleep, however, salivary glands slow down the production of saliva allowing the bacteria to grow inside the mouth. To alleviate “morning mouth,” brush your teeth and eat a morning meal. Morning mouth also is associated with hunger or fasting. Those who skip breakfast, beware because the odor may reappear even if you’ve brushed your teeth.
Very spicy foods, such as onions and garlic, and coffee may be detected on a person’s breath for up to 72 hours after digestion. Onions, for example, are absorbed by the stomach and the odor is then excreted through the lungs. Studies even have shown that garlic rubbed on the soles of the feet can show up on the breath.
It is important to practice good oral hygiene, such as brushing and flossing your teeth at least twice a day. To alleviate the odor, clean your tongue with your toothbrush or a tongue scraper, a plastic tool that scrapes away bacteria that builds on the tongue. Chewing sugar-free gum also may help control the odor. If you have dentures or a removable appliance, such as a retainer or mouthguard, clean the appliance thoroughly before placing it back in your mouth. Before you use mouth rinses, deodorizing sprays or tablets, talk with your dentist because these products only mask the odor temporarily, and some products work better than others.
Visit your dentist regularly because checkups will help detect any physical problems. Checkups also help get rid of the plaque and bacteria that build up on your teeth. Your dentist can check you out and make a determination where the source of the odor is originating. If it seems to be from a systemic problem you may be referred to your physician for further tests and evaluation.