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Halitosis or persistent bad breath

Halitosis is much more than bad morning breath. It’s a persistent unpleasant odour that causes discomfort both to the sufferer and to the people around them.

Luckily, bad breath can be treated if we address the causes of the condition.

Two types of bad breath

One type of bad breath is caused by dryness of the mucous membranes in the mouth. This condition is due to a decrease in saliva production, particularly during sleep. This is known as occasional bad breath. Unpleasant odours caused when certain foods are digested also fall under the category of occasional bad breath.

Persistent bad breath is a chronic condition. It may be caused by an oral health issue or other types of medical condition.

Those at greater risk of developing halitosis include sufferers of chronic dry mouth (xerostomia), the elderly and people living with certain medical conditions like diabetes or metabolic disorders.

What causes bad breath?

Oral health-related causes

  • Inadequate dental hygiene
  • Diseases such as gingivitis, cavities and infections
  • Chronic dry mouth (xerostomia)
  • Mouth breathing
  • Respiratory tract infections like rhinitis and tonsillitis

External causes

  • Eating pungent foods like garlic, onions or spices
  • Certain medications (narcotics and pain medications, antidepressants, anti-inflammatory drugs)
  • Inadequate chewing
  • Hormonal changes in women (ovulation, pregnancy)
  • Smoking
  • Other medical conditions (systemic disease, gastroesophageal reflux disease, cancer, etc.)

How to treat bad breath

If you think you might be suffering from bad breath, try these tips:

  • Rinse your mouth with water and baking soda.
  • Chew peppermint or chlorophyll gum.
  • Drink mint tea.
  • Use a store-bought mouthwash that fights bad breath.

Solutions and prevention

Most bad breath caused by oral health issues can be prevented by drinking plenty of water, eating healthy, maintaining good dental hygiene and getting regular check-ups at the dentist.

You can also try to stimulate saliva production by chewing sugar-free gum or eating citrus fruit.

Here are some other tried-and-tested tips for freshening your breath:

  • Drink green tea
  • Eat a banana
  • Chew on parsley
  • Suck on a clove or cinnamon stick

Halitosis does not affect everyone equally. Thus, some individuals have better natural defences against bacteria than others. Therefore, it’s important to take preventive action and receive adequate oral health care.

Finally, another good reason to mention concerns about bad breath to your dentist is that it might be symptomatic of a medical condition that requires attention.