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Do You Have Bad Breath?

By: Kathryn Senior PhD - Updated: 20 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
Bad Breath Halitosis Bacteria Dental

One of the main problems about bad breath is that everyone else can detect it very easily but you are usually oblivious to it. If you think you might have bad breath and can’t pluck up the courage to ask your closest friends for an honest opinion, try answer these questions. If most of the risk factors for bad breath apply to you, you might be able to do something about each one and stop worrying about halitosis.

Do You Clean Your Teeth After Eating?

If your answer is no, or only sometimes, you risk a build up of bacteria around your teeth, gum and tongue that can cause bad breath. The bacteria that live in your mouth are mostly helpful, acting to out-compete potentially harmful bacteria that you take in. Other bacteria live there to feed on the food that stays between your teeth after eating and these can produce smelly compounds as they do so. Regular brushing will keep their numbers down and can do a lot to improve bad breath.

Do You Like Garlic?

Many restaurant meals contain garlic and onions and we use these at home in cooking. Eating garlic gives your breath a characteristic smell and it happens in people who usually have very sweet breath. The problem here is not remnants of food in the teeth. The garlic produces smelly compounds when it is digested and these travel through the body in the blood. Some of these molecules pass from the blood to the air we breathe out. So, the bad smell comes from our metabolism, not from our mouth. The only way to avoid ‘garlic breath’ is not to eat garlic. Chewing gum, brushing your teeth or chewing parsley will only have a temporary effect.

Do You Smoke?

For a non-smoker possibly the worst type of bad breath that you can smell on someone else is stale smoke. Tobacco smoke contains hundreds of chemicals such as nicotine and tar that are absorbed through the lungs. But before the smoke gets there, some of these molecules are absorbed by the musosa, the soft tissues in the mouth. More of the smelly substances coat the teeth and tongue, producing the characteristic smell.

Do You Have Sore Gums?

Having gingivitis or, the more serious gum inflammation periodontitis, produces very bad breath. As the gums become inflamed they are more likely to trap food and bacteria, creating pockets of rotting matter inside your gum tissue.

Do You Have Dry Mouth?

A condition called dry mouth results from the salivary glands in the mouth not producing enough fluid. Someone affected feels their mouth is dry, they find it difficult to eat dry foods and they can have trouble swallowing. Some drugs, particularly those taken for anxiety, can cause dry mouth. As saliva acts as a natural lubricant to wash away bacteria from the teeth and tongue, having a dry mouth allows bacteria to build up and most people with dry mouth experience very halitosis.

Do You Have Sinus Problems?

Having infected sinuses, which cause a post nasal drip, can affect the way your breath smells. If you suffer from catarrh on a regular basis, your smell will be impaired and you will be less likely to realise that your breath is so bad. Getting the problem checked out with a doctor could help – treating the sinus problem could mean less catarrh, less infection and better breath.

Do You Wear Dentures?

Even modern dentures can trap food and bacteria and these need thorough cleaning to stop bad breath. Ask your dentist for advice – ill-fitting dentures can cause gum inflammation, which can make the problem worse. He or she might recommend a new set, which could remove the cause of your halitosis.

Coping With Bad Breath

It may be that you can take steps to remove some of the causes of bad breath but others remain with you. Good management of bad breath can minimise the problem. Regular teeth brushing, using a minty mouthwash, chewing sugar free gum and flossing every day will help – but regular means just that. A day of poor dental hygiene is all it takes for halitosis to make its presence felt again.

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