Bad breath, or halitosis, can be a major problem. The good news is that bad breath can often be prevented with some simple steps. Bad breath is caused by odor-producing bacteria that grow in the mouth. When you don't brush and floss regularly, bacteria accumulate on the bits of food left in your mouth and between your teeth. The sulfur compounds released by these bacteria make your breath smell. Certain foods, especially ones like garlic and onions that contain pungent oils, can contribute to bad breath because the oils are carried to your lungs and out through your mouth. Smoking is also a major cause of bad breath. There are lots of myths about taking care of bad breath. Here are few things you may have heard about bad breath that are not true
Mouthwash will make bad breath go away.
Mouthwash only gets rid of bad breath temporarily. If you do use mouthwash, look for an antiseptic (kills the germs that cause bad breath) and plaque-reducing one with a seal from the Indian Dental Association (IDA).
As long as you brush your teeth, you shouldn't have bad breath.
The truth is that most people only brush their teeth for 30 to 45 seconds, which just doesn't cut it. To sufficiently clean all the surfaces of your teeth, you should brush for at least 2 minutes at least twice a day. Remember to brush your tongue, too — bacteria love to hang out there. It's equally important to floss because brushing alone won't remove harmful plaque and food particles that become stuck between your teeth and gums.
If you're concerned about bad breath, make sure you're taking care of your teeth and mouth properly. Some sugar-free gums and mints can temporarily mask odors, too.
If you brush and floss properly and visit your dentist for regular cleanings, but your bad breath persists, you may have a medical problem like sinusitis or gum disease. Call your doctor or dentist if you suspect a problem. They can figure out if something else is behind your bad breath and help you take care of it.
Causes of bad breath
Most bad breath originates in your mouth. The causes of bad breath are numerous. They include:
- Food: The breakdown of food particles in and around your teeth can cause a foul odor. Eating foods containing volatile oils is another source of bad breath. Onions and garlic are the best-known examples, but other vegetables and spices also can cause bad breath. After these foods are digested and the pungent oils are absorbed into your bloodstream, they're carried to your lungs and are given off in your breath until the food is eliminated from your body. Onions and garlic can cause bad breath for as long as 72 hours after you've eaten them.
- Dental problems: Poor dental hygiene and periodontal disease can be a source of bad breath. If you don't brush and floss daily, food particles remain in your mouth, collecting bacteria and emitting hydrogen sulfide vapors. A colorless, sticky film of bacteria (plaque) forms on your teeth.
- Dry mouth: Saliva helps cleanse and moisten your mouth. A dry mouth enables dead cells to accumulate on your tongue, gums and cheeks. These cells then decompose and cause odor. Dry mouth naturally occurs during sleep.
- Diseases: Chronic lung infections and lung abscesses can produce very foul-smelling breath. Other illnesses, such as some cancers and certain metabolic disorders, can cause a distinctive breath odor.
- Mouth, nose and throat condition: Bad breath is also associated with sinus infections because nasal discharge from your sinuses into the back of your throat can cause mouth odor.
- Tobacco products: Smoking dries out your mouth and causes its own unpleasant mouth odor. Tobacco users are also more likely to have periodontal disease, an additional source of bad breath.
- Severe dieting: Dieters may develop unpleasant "fruity" breath from ketoacidosis, the breakdown of chemicals during fasting.
What can you do for yourself ?
- Maintain a high level of oral and dental hygiene. In addition to brushing, it is important to clean between the teeth using dental floss
- Use a tongue cleaner and clean right to the back of the tongue
- Use a mouthwash recommended by your dentist or pharmacist. The best time to use it is just before sleeping
- Drink plenty of fluids, avoiding too much coffee
- Clean your mouth after eating milk products, fish and meat
- Chew sugar-free gum, especially if your mouth feels dry
- Eat fresh, fibrous vegetables
- Visit your dentist regularly and have your teeth professionally cleaned as required