Can you remember the last time you had an uncomfortable conversation with a close talker? Most people associate bad breath with onions and garlic, and many times it is just a single occurrence. Bad breath, or halitosis, however, is estimated to be the third most frequent reason for people to seek dental care—behind tooth decay and periodontal disease (gum disease).
About 20 percent of the American population suffers from bad breath to some degree. In the vast majority of cases, the cause(s) can be reduced by improving oral hygiene—including brushing or gently scraping the back of the tongue, and improving the health of the gums. The reason for the improvement is that in approximately 90 percent of the cases, the odor is caused by the presence of bacteria in the mouth.
The remaining 10 percent of cases are accounted for by many different conditions. However, people with chronic halitosis sometimes can develop psychological or social problems, such as social anxiety and depression. Here are a few things to remember:
- The tongue is the most common location for mouth-related halitosis.
- The gums are also a vulnerable area.
- Tooth decay (think missing/tilted/improperly spaced teeth, or poorly contoured dental fillings) contributes to bad breath because food gets pushed between the teeth.
- Inadequate denture hygiene.
Other possible causes of halitosis:
- Medications can cause xerostomia (dry mouth), which results in increased microbial growth in the mouth
- Oral infections and ulcerations
- Nasal/esophageal/digestive conditions
- Systemic diseases such as liver failure, lower respiratory tract infections, kidney failure, carcinoma and diabetes
- Menstrual cycle
- Gently clean the tongue surface twice daily. Use a tooth brush, tongue cleaner or tongue brush/scraper.
- Eat a healthful breakfast.
- Chew pleasant-smelling, breath-freshening gum.
- Rinse with an effective mouthwash.
- Maintain proper oral hygiene, including daily tongue cleaning, brushing, flossing, and periodic visits to dentists and hygienists.