It’s estimated that around a quarter of people suffer with halitosis on a regular basis. Bad breath can be embarrassing and uncomfortable but most of the time the cause is something as simple as poor oral hygiene that can be easily improved. If you’re suffering from halitosis then there is a lot you can do to find out what might be causing it and to take steps to clear it up.
The causes of halitosis
Bad breath can have a very wide range of different causes but these are some of the most common:
- Poor dental hygiene. If you’re not regularly brushing and flossing then you may still have particles of food in your mouth that can break down and cause a bad smell. Plaque - a film of bacteria - may build up on teeth, triggering issues such as inflammation and decay, as well as halitosis.
- What you consume. Some foods - such as onions and garlic - are notorious for causing halitosis. If you’re not drinking enough water then you may have a dry mouth, lacking in saliva which naturally cleans the mouth. Halitosis can also result from some diets, such as fasting or low carb diets which cause your body to break down fats, producing chemicals called ketones, which smell strong. If you smoke then this can also be a big trigger for bad breath, in particular because it causes gum disease.
- Illnesses and treatments. Some diseases, such as liver failure or cancer, have halitosis as one of the symptoms. You may also get bad breath from certain drugs, such as those used to treat angina and drugs used in chemotherapy, as these often dry out the mouth.
Some of the less common causes of halitosis include ketoacidosis, which affects diabetics with very low insulin levels, as well as bowel obstruction, or aspiration pneumonia.
Do I have halitosis?
Bad breath is something that other people may tell you about, subtly or not. You can also test this yourself by licking your wrist. When the saliva dries, if a bad smell remains then this may be a problem that you need to get some help with.
There are various different tests that you can have to determine whether your halitosis is being caused by an underlying condition or just something lifestyle related. There are also many different ways that you can help yourself, including:
- Improving your oral hygiene. Brush your teeth twice a day, floss regularly and make sure that you’re cleaning dentures etc so that there is no opportunity for them to cause problems.
- Get a tongue scraper. Dead cells, food and bacteria can build up on the tongue - removing this regularly with a tongue scraper can have a big impact.
- Make sure you don’t have a dry mouth. Drinking plenty of water will help to ensure that you have lots of saliva, which is the mouth’s natural cleaning mechanism. Avoiding tobacco and alcohol can also make a difference as both dehydrate the mouth.
- Change your diet. Sometimes, the simplest changes are the most effective. If your current diet is rich in halitosis-causing foods, such as sugar, spicy food, garlic and onions then changing what you eat could make a big difference.
If you suffer from halitosis there are steps you can take to ease this problem right now.