Halitosis: Get Yours Under Control!

a girl holding her nose next to a man with bad breath

It’s an embarrassing problem that brings many patients into the dentist’s office: Halitosi. Otherwise known as bad breath, halitosis affects everyone at some point. Just about everyone wakes up with sour breath, for example, and a tuna sandwich with extra onions is almost guaranteed to cause a cringe-worthy odor. Approximately 80 million people suffer from chronic halitosis, however; this means that bad breath sticks around despite good oral hygiene. Here are some of the facts you need to know about how to tame bad breath.

Causes

The obvious cause of bad breath is a lack of oral hygiene. When you wake up in the morning, a slowed flow of saliva and an increase in bacteria and their waste products is usually to blame. Brushing your teeth well usually cures the problem… at least until the next morning!

Other causes of halitosis include:

  • Dental problems. Even if your oral hygiene routine is perfect, a cavity or gum disease can cause a bad smell.
  • Food. If you eat onion, garlic or certain spices, you may think that brushing your teeth will take away all traces of odor. Unfortunately, your bloodstream absorbs pungent foods and delivers molecules of it to your lungs, where you will breathe it out even hours after ingestion.
  • Dry mouth. Whether it’s caused by sleeping with your mouth open or medications, such as antihistamines, that dry out your mouth, a reduction in saliva can contribute to bad breath.
  • Throat or sinus infections. Inflamed tonsils, pus pockets in the throat or mucus buildup in the sinuses can lead to halitosis.
  • Digestive issues. If you have extra stomach acid or reflux, this can affect the smell of your breath.

In addition, diabetes, cancers and other illnesses can cause bad breath.

Treatment

If there is an infection causing your bad breath, then the only way to stop it is to get the infection under control. See your dentist if you have an oral infection, or your doctor if you have a throat or sinus infection. Acid reflux can be treated with over-the-counter or prescription medications.

If you are taking medication that is making your mouth dry, let your physician know. In some cases, you might be able to switch to a different type or brand.

Frequent brushing and flossing is another way to combat bad breath that is not caused by underlying issues. Your dentist might recommend a mouthwash that can help reduce the number of bacteria in your mouth. Cleaning your tongue each day can also help.

Finally, keeping your mouth moist by chewing on sugar-free gum or sipping water or other sugar-free liquids throughout the day can help keep halitosis at bay.

If you have concerns about bad breath, make an appointment with your dentist. It’s important not to be too embarrassed to get help; treatment can save you a lot of stress and anxiety, and if there are underlying issues, it’s best if they are treated sooner rather than later.