29 June 2010

Bad breath (halitosis)

Halitosis is a dental and medical problem, which may stem from the activity of bacteria in the mouth.


  • An occasional bout of bad breath, or halitosis, is not uncommon.
  • About 90 percent of the population has bad breath every once in a while.
  • About 25 percent of all adults are estimated to suffer from halitosis on a regular basis, and 40 percent suffer from chronic halitosis.
  • Brushing, flossing and mouth rinsing provides only temporary relief instead of eliminating the problem.
  • However, poor dental hygiene may often cause bad breath.
  • In general, the most effective way to manage bad breath of oral origin (halitosis emanating from the mouth is called fetor oris) is through proper oral hygiene and regular dental cleanings.

Alternative names

What is halitosis?

Research warns that VSC may have a harmful effect on the normal gum. The compounds are believed to increase the vulnerability of the gum membrane to increased bacterial invasion. If VSC in the mouth can be controlled, so can most mouth odours. Early periodontal disease may also be controlled by simmilar measures. (Periodontal disease refers to a group of diseases which affect the periodontium - the tooth, the gum , the bone and the ligament which attaches the tooth to the bone. Greek: peri="around", ondont="tooth").

What causes halitosis?

  • Milk and cheese and most other dairy products.
  • Fish.

Who gets halitosis and who is at risk?

Symptoms and signs of halitosis

  • A white coating on the surface of the tongue
  • A sour, bitter or metallic taste related to higher acid levels in the mouth
  • Dryness in the mouth, extreme "morning breath", or evidence of thicker saliva
  • High levels of postnasal drip or mucus in the throat
  • An increase in bad breath after eating certain foods, using mouthwashes or hormonal therapies, or during the menstrual cycle.

How is halitosis diagnosed?

Can halitosis be prevented?

  • With your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle, brush the outer and inner surfaces of your teeth at the gumline with short, gentle using gentle circular motions, where the circle is so small that only one tooth is brushed at a time.
  • Brush the flat chewing surfaces of your teeth with a back-and-forth motion.
  • Clean the inner surfaces of your front teeth by tilting the brush vertically and using gentle circular motions.
  • Pay special attention to hard-to-reach back teeth and areas where dental work has been performed.
  • Brush your tongue in a back-to-front motion to remove food particles and bacteria.
  • You should take two minutes to brush your teeth properly.

How is halitosis treated?

Halitosis dos

  • Visit your dentist regularly.
  • Have your teeth cleaned periodically by a dental professional.
  • Floss or otherwise clean between your teeth.
  • Choose unscented floss so that you can detect those areas between your teeth that give off odours, and clean them more carefully.
  • Brush your teeth and gums properly.
  • Ask your dentist to recommend a toothbrush or scraper for your tongue. Clean your tongue all the way back gently, but thoroughly.
  • Drink plenty of liquids.
  • Chew sugar-free gum for a minute or two at a time, especially if your mouth feels dry. Chewing parsley, mint, cloves or fennel seeds may also help.
  • Clean your mouth after eating or drinking milk products, fish and meat.
  • False teeth should be brushed daily using dishwashing liquid (the same that you use to clean knives and forks) and a soft brush. If there are stains or tartar on the teeth, have them professionally cleaned.
  • If someone in your family or a close friend has bad breath, find a kind way to let them know.
  • Ask your dentist to recommend a mouthwash that has been shown to be clinically effective in fighting bad breath, and use it just before going to sleep. None on the market that can be used for long periods of time, however.
  • Eat fresh, fibrous vegetables such as carrots.

Halitosis don'ts

  • Don't let your concern about having bad breath run your life. Don't be passive.
  • Don't ignore your gums - you can lose your teeth as well as smell bad.
  • Don't drink too much coffee - it may make the situation worse.
  • Don't forget to clean behind the back teeth in each row.
  • Don't brush your tongue with regular toothpaste - it's better to dip your toothbrush in mouthwash for tongue cleaning.
  • Don't run to the gastroenterologist for concerns of having bad breath - it usually comes from the mouth and seldom from the stomach.
  • Don't give mouthwash to very young children, as they can swallow it.
  • Don't clean your tongue so hard that it hurts.
  • Don't rely on mouthwash alone - practise complete oral hygiene.

When to call the doctor



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