Word of Mouth
November 12, 2004

Whether you call it bad breath or halitosis, it’s an embarrassing condition to have. Very often, people aren’t aware that they have bad breath, and we are never sure how to tell them. If you believe that you have bad breath, see your dentist who can help identify the cause.{{more}}

Some of the most common causes are:

* Consumption of foods such as garlic and onion; when eaten, these are absorbed into the bloodstream, and then transferred to the lungs where they are expelled giving a bad odour when you speak. Brushing, flossing and mouthwash will only mask this odour temporarily.

* Dieters may develop unpleasant breath from infrequent eating.

* Dehydration during the course of the day may also contribute to bad breath. This can however be corrected by increasing fluid intake.

* Not brushing and flossing daily can cause food particles to remain on your teeth and tongue, these food particles may start to rot and collect bacteria, which can cause bad breath.

* Dry mouth (xerostomia) occurs when the flow of saliva decreases. Saliva is necessary to wash away food from the teeth. The main causes of this condition include:

* Medications

* Salivary gland problems

* Continuous breathing through the mouth. This may be corrected by the use of an artificial saliva, or by the use of sugarless candy and increasing your fluid intake.

* Tobacco products

* Medical disorders such as:

* Respiratory infections

* Sinus problems

* Stomach problems

* Postnasal drip

* Liver or kidney ailment

Maintaining good oral health is essential to reduce bad breath. Brush your teeth and tongue with a fluoride toothpaste to remove food particles and bacteria, and floss at least twice daily.

Schedule regular dental visits for a professional cleaning and check-up. If you think you have constant bad breath, keep a log of the foods you eat and a list of medications you take.

Mouthwashes only mask the odour temporarily, if it is determined that you need help in controlling plaque, your dentist may recommend a special antimicrobial mouthwash.

If your dentist determines that your mouth is healthy, you may be referred to a medical doctor.

Here are four self-test ways to detect bad breath:

1. Lick the back of your hand; let it dry for a few seconds and then smell. If you detect an odour then you have bad breath.

2. Floss your back teeth and smell the floss.

3. Push out your tongue as far as possible, wipe it with a clean cloth and smell, look and see if the very back of your tongue is whitish in colour.

4. Ask the opinion of someone who is close to you.

Dr. Simone France