What is halitosis?

Bad breath, which is also known as halitosis, can be embarrassing and in some cases may even cause anxiety. Although bad breath is associated with certain diseases, oral hygiene is the most common cause. Maximum of products like  gum, mints, mouthwashes and other products designed to fight bad breath only temporary measures because they don't address the cause of the problem. 

How to diagnose yourself

The specific odour of breath can vary depending on the cause of the problem. It is best to ask a close friend or relative to gauge your mouth odour, as it can be difficult to assess it yourself.

If no one is available, one way of checking the odour is to lick your wrist, leave it to dry, and then smell it. A bad smell on this area of the wrist is likely to suggest that you have halitosis.

1. Food- The breakdown of food particles in and around your teeth can increase bacteria and cause a bad odour. Foods such as garlic and onion can also cause bad breath. After they are digested, their breakdown products are carried in the blood to the lungs where they can affect the breath. 

2. Tobacco products- Smoking causes its own unpleasant mouth odour. Smokers and oral tobacco users have more chances of gum disease which can also lead to bad breath.

3. Dental Hygiene- Brushing and flossing ensure the removal of small particles of food that can build up and slowly break down, producing odour. A colourless, sticky film of bacteria known as plaque forms on your teeth and if not brushed away, plaque can irritate your gums and eventually form plaque-filled pockets between your teeth and gums (periodontitis). Your tongue also can trap bacteria that produce odours.

4. Dry mouth- Saliva helps to cleanse your mouth naturally, removing particles that cause bad odours. A condition called dry mouth or xerostomia can contribute to bad breath because production of saliva is decreased. Dry mouth naturally occurs during sleep, leading to "morning breath," and it worsens if you sleep with your mouth open. Chronic dry mouth can be caused by a problem with your salivary glands and some diseases. 

5. Fasting diets- Fasting and low-carbohydrate eating programs can produce halitosis. This is due to the breakdown of fats producing chemicals called ketones. These ketones have a strong aroma which can lead to bad breath.

 6. Medications- Some medications can indirectly produce bad breath by release of chemicals and can be broken down in the body to release chemicals that can be carried on your breath. Certain medications can reduce saliva and, therefore, increase odours. Examples include nitrates used to treat angina, some chemotherapy chemicals, and some tranquilizers, such as phenothiazines. Individuals who take vitamin supplements in large doses can also be prone to bad breath. 

7. Nose and throat conditions- Sometimes, small, bacteria-covered stones can form on the tonsils at the back of the throat and produce odour. Many times people who are suffering from  infections or inflammation in the nose, throat, or sinuses can cause halitosis.

8. Diseases- Gastroesophageal reflux disease can cause bad breath due to the regular reflux of stomach acids. Some cancers, liver failure, and other metabolic diseases can cause halitosis, due to the specific mixes of chemicals that they produce. 

9. Foreign body: Bad breath can be caused if they have a foreign body lodged in their nasal cavity, especially in children.

10. Dental prosthesis -Dentures that are not cleaned regularly or properly can also harbour bacteria that cause halitosis.

Now that you know the reasons for bad breadth, you also know that you have to watch out for these causes for now on!