Halitosis or bad breath is an oral health condition which is characterized by obnoxious odours arising from the oral cavity. It causes discomfort and affects social communication and life. Moreover, this can be indicative of underlying local or systemic diseases which can be either physiological or pathological. An apprehension of bad breath is a dominant motivating force that facilitates people to visit the dentist. Recently this zone has observed development in technology for its diagnosis and treatment and this has raised the level of information about bad breath among the general population.

What causes bad breath?

1. Dental Issues: Cavities and deep pockets of gum diseases give bad breath as these are the places where bacteria harbour the most and are difficult to clean thus they contribute to noticeable fetid odour.

2. Mouth, Nose and Throat Infections: Bacteria feed on mucous that your body produces during nose, sinus or throat infections and this leads to bad breath.

3. Dry mouth: It can be caused by the use of certain medications, medical conditions, alcohol, tobacco use or excessive caffeine. Saliva helps in rinsing and removing unwanted leftovers from your mouth and prevents cavity formation and fights infection if you have dry mouth it may result in halitosis.

4. Smoking and tobacco: Tobacco products devastate your body and health and are contributing factors which lead to bad breath.

5. Other chronic conditions: It may also be a sign of gastric reflux, diabetes, liver or kidney disease. 

How is bad breath formed?

The coating of bacteria that develops over the tongue and gums consists of blood and saliva components, food particles, skin cells and micro-organisms. Within hours of brushing teeth, the saliva that forms contains volatile sulphur compounds, which emits an odour that is particularly evident and called as methyl mercaptan.

Why do we often wake up with bad breath?

During the night, the flow of saliva in the mouth is less hence bacteria act continuously in the mouth without being washed off. The plaque is mostly alkaline in the morning, which favours the formation of bad breath.

 Is bad breath treatable?

Absolutely YES!  Most bad breath can be treated and then prevented by understanding the causes and applying thorough methods of cleaning the mouth.

How can bad breath be prevented?

1. Practising good oral hygiene such as brushing twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and flossing will remove food debris and plaque.  If you are wearing dentures they should be removed at night and cleaned thoroughly before being placed in your mouth the next morning.

2. Maintain regular check-ups as recommended by your dentist.  Most dentists recommend regular check-up at least twice a year for an oral examination and professional teeth cleaning.  During these check-ups, your dentist will check for any oral problems such as periodontal disease, dry mouth, or other problems that may be the cause of bad mouth odour.

3. An oral rinse or "mouthwash" can be used, but only to provide extra freshness, not to mask odours which should have been removed by other measures. 

4. Avoid smoking/chewing tobacco-based products.

5. Drinking lots of water, chewing gum (sugarless) keeps your mouth moist and stimulates the production of saliva, which helps wash away food particles and bacteria.

6. If you think the foods you are eating may cause bad breath keep a record of them and your dentist will let you know if they may be the cause of your bad breath. Additionally, make a list of any medications you are taking as these too may contribute to bad breath.

7. If you maintain good oral hygiene practices but still suffer from halitosis then you should consult with your dentist to help you remedy the situation.  There are many different treatment options that will cure your unique situation.