Bad Breath: Causes, Symptoms and Risk factors


Bad breath:When is it too bad ?

Bad breath, technically known as halitosis is a concern for more than 40% of the world population.

Bad breath may be temporary as in case of morning halitosis. Bad breath in morning is generally temporary and is caused due to intake of sulphide rich foods and administration of certain drugs.It occurs because breathing at night dries up the mouth. Dried membranes cause anaerobic bacteria to proliferate during the night which results in bad breath. This bad breath disappears after washing and brushing in the morning. Such transient halitosis is not a cause of worry and is not to be treated.

A  chronic bad breath is what needs intervention.

Though a benign condition with no pain, halitosis causes embarrassment, affects relationships and can have distressing psychological consequences.

How to check if you have a Bad Breath?

Smelling ones own breath is almost impossible. You nose cannot perceive even the most foul smells emitted from your mouth. This is because our nose can only detect changes in smell and not the smell in itself. It cannot detect those odors in which you are persistently bathed.

Some people try to smell their own breath by exhaling and covering their mouth with their palm. Though this can give some idea, it will not give you the exact nature of your mouth’s smell.

How then to check if your mouth omits foul smell? One can ask a dentist or someone who can be relied upon to give an objective opinion. Another solution would be to scratch the back of your tongue with a tongue cleaner and sniff it for odour, if any.

Causes of Bad Breath

Halitosis can have different causes. These are:

Oral disorders: Oral disorders like caries, pyorrhoea, plaque, gingivitis, tooth decay, abscess, mouth ulcer and other periodontal disease are often associated with bad breath. Consult a dentist if you want to get rid of bad breath and suffer from any of these oral disorders.

Sulphide:  This is the most common cause of bad breath. Compounds of Sulphide have a characteristic pungent odour resembling that of rotten eggs. They are volatile, in sense; they can easily evaporate leaving behind pungent odour. Sulphides are produced in our mouth by anaerobic bacteria (bacteria that thrive without oxygen) even in healthy mouths. However when these bacteria multiply in large amount, the odour becomes marked. Intake of food rich in sulphide such as onions, garlic and some strong spices cause bad breath.

Protein rich food: Anaerobic bacteria thrive on protein residue leftover in mouth and produce sulphide which promotes bad breath. Avoid eating food rich in protein like meat (beef, chicken, turkey, tuna, salmon), nuts (almonds, avocados, peanut) and beans (soybeans, lentils etc.)

ENT disorders: Bad breath can be a warning signal for an underlying ENT disorder like simple cold, stuffy nose, dried mucous cough, sinusitis and chronic tonsillitis.  These ENT disorders cause dried mucous discharge at the back of the throat which is a common cause of bad breath.

Lung disorders: Infection of Lung and related disorders like bronchitis and bronchiectasis also result in bad breath.

Digestive disorders: Gastro- intestinal disorders, intestinal sluggishness and chronic constipation also result in bad breath.

Tobacco & Alcohol: Smoking, Alcohol and consumption of other tobacco products is associated with gum disease and bad breath. Smoking and alcohol dries up the mouth and the mucous membranes. This makes it more prone to bacterial infection which further aggravates bad breath.

Other Causes: Certain drugs like anti-histamines, anti allergic, anti depressants and diuretics result in drying of the mucous membrane and cause bad breath. Stress induces dryness in mouth and can also cause bad breath.

Halitosis: Possible Complications

Bad breath is often a symptom of some other health disorder. It is a warning signal take a close look at ones habits and lifestyle.

Halitosis per se is a benign condition. However don’t let the banality of the disorder ignore its potential risk factors.

Bad breath if left untreated for the root causes could signal disorders like oral cavity, dental caries, diabetes and pyorrhoea. Poor oral hygiene in rare cases is also associated with increased risk of cancer, kidney and liver disorders.

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