Everybody has had halitosis or bad breath at one time or another and we have all been in a situation where we want to run away from the person we are talking to because their breath is so strong. There are a number of causes of bad breath and many can be prevented:
Saliva acts as a natural cleanser to wash away food particles in our mouths. When we sleep, our saliva production decreases and bacteria forms when food particles remain, causing morning breath. Although it is almost impossible to totally prevent, morning breath can be reduced by thoroughly flossing around all of your teeth and rinsing forcefully for 20 seconds then take 2 minutes to brush all of your teeth and again rinse forcefully for 20 seconds. Flossing is a must because 30% of the tooth surface is not cleansable by a brush and contrary to some mouth wash claims, rinses alone are not adequate to remove this plaque. Cleaning your tongue before bed will help. A good brushing and rinsing in the morning should get rid of any traces of morning breath.
Medications may have a side effect of causing dry mouth as does breathing through your mouth instead of your nose. The bacteria grow quicker in a dry mouth. Some people breathe through their mouth while they sleep. The following can also lead to dry mouth: dieting, exercising, intake of alcohol or the use of an alcohol based mouth rinse and the grand daddy of them all, smoking.
The most common cause of bad breath is bacteria. Anaerobic bacteria digest plaque that we do not remove. The bacteria grow and produce waste products known as volatile sulphur compounds on the surface of the tongue, throat, teeth and periodontal pockets. These waste products cause gum disease and bad breath. Gum disease is a bacterial infection of the gums and ligaments that support the teeth. This leads to bone loss and deep pockets in between the teeth and gums. These are not easy to clean. Many bacteria live in these pockets and require aggressive cleaning therapies to reduce bad breath. Signs of gum disease are red or swollen gums, bleeding gums, loose teeth, pus drainage and pain when chewing. Breath odour that will not go away even after proper flossing and brushing is usually the result of a lot of bacteria in the mouth, throat, sinuses or lungs. These bacteria combine with proteins from dental plaque, food debris and cells, producing acids and compounds that cause smelly breath.
Tooth decay and gum disease can cause some nasty breath problems. Many people are not aware of dental problems until a considerable amount of damage has occurred. A dentist can recognise these potentially damaging problems early and provide early treatment, the dentist can also diagnose other problems which cause bad breath such as impacted teeth, cavities, gum disease, etc.. That is why it is so important to visit your dental office regularly, every 6 months, to have your teeth checked by your dentist for decay and periodontal, (gum), disease and professionally cleaned by your dental hygienist or dentist. It is necessary to maintain proper oral hygiene at home by doing the following:
Brush at least twice a day for a minimum of two minutes each time, especially just before bed
Floss every night at bedtime and rinse thoroughly with water after flossing
Brush your tongue (or use a special tongue scraper) after each brushing from the back to the front
Chew sugar-free gum and drink plenty of water to hydrate your body
Use an alcohol-free, sulphur reducing mouth rinses containing chlorine dioxide which neutralize the sulphur compounds as opposed to an alcohol based mouth rinse which will make matters worse by drying your mouth out and in the long term can contribute to the bad breath problem
What we eat
As we all know, the ever-popular onions, garlic and spices that we eat add to the flavour of our food, but tend to stay with us in the form of bad breath for several hours. Also, what we don't eat can affect our breath as well; dieting, fasting and skipping meals can cause unpleasant breath odour, so it is important to eat a balanced diet and drink plenty of water during the day. Dairy products increase the bacterial production of volatile sulphur compounds. Acids in coffee and soda decrease oxygenation allowing the bacteria to grow faster and produce more offensive volatile sulphur compounds
Other potential causes
While gum, mints and mouthwashes may mask bad breath, they are only temporary measures. If chronic bad breath is a problem, it is best to explore other possible underlying causes such as sinusitis, allergies/intolerances, diabetes, kidney failure, Hiatus Hernia, stress, alcohol, prescription drugs or hormonal changes.