Is Lousy Breath The Sign Of Something More Serious?


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What Is Bad Breath (Halitosis)?

Chronic bad breath, which is sometimes called halitosis, is often a sign of poor dental hygiene or dry mouth. The condition may also be a sign of a more serious mouth disease or an illness in another part of your body, including gastric reflux, diabetes, kidney disease and liver disease.

What Are The Causes And Symptoms Of Bad Breath?

Poor hygiene – This is the most common cause of bad breath. When food particles are stuck between your teeth or elsewhere in your mouth, they get broken down by bacteria that grow there. That process releases a foul smell. The bacteria can also cause tooth decay and gum disease. Brushing your teeth and tongue and flossing help to remove the food residue and control the bacteria.

Dry mouth – Saliva helps to wash your mouth, so if your body isn’t making enough saliva, your breath can smell bad. Smoking can cause dry mouth and also increases the possibility of gum disease. Certain medications can cause your mouth to be dry.

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) – This is a digestive disorder in which stomach acid or fluids leak back into the esophagus, the tube that takes food from your mouth to your stomach.

Tonsil stones – When food gets stuck in your tonsils, which are at the back of your mouth on both sides, it sometimes hardens into calcium deposits called tonsil stones or tonsilloliths.

Gum disease – Gingivitis is an inflammation of the gums that can cause them to be red, swollen and bleed easily. It is caused by plaque, a sticky film that builds on your teeth and can be removed by brushing and flossing. Trench mouth is an advanced form of gingivitis that can involve intense pain, bleeding, fever and fatigue. (It’s called “trench mouth” because it was a common illness for soldiers in the trenches during World War I.) Untreated gingivitis can lead to periodontitis, which damages gum tissue and can lead to tooth and bone loss around the teeth.

Infections in the nose, throat or lungs – Patients with pneumonia, for example, cough up liquid that smells bad.

Diabetes – People with diabetes have an increased risk of gum disease, and gum disease can make it harder to control diabetes because it can increase blood sugar.

Liver disease or kidney disease – These can lead to bad breath because of the smell of toxic substances that would be filtered out of your body by properly functioning kidneys or liver.

Sjögren’s syndrome – This is an autoimmune disease that can lead to dry mouth, dry eyes and dry skin, as well as muscle pain.

Symptoms Of Halitosis

The features of halitosis can include:

  • A white coating on the tongue especially at the back of the tongue
  • Dry mouth
  • Build up around teeth
  • Post-nasal drip, or mucous
  • Morning bad breath and a burning tongue
  • Thick saliva and a constant need to clear your throat
  • Constant sour, bitter metallic taste.

Having halitosis can have a major impact on a person. Because of bad breath, other people may back away or turn their heads. This can cause a loss of confidence and self-esteem.

Treating Halitosis

There is no one treatment for halitosis. The treatment will depend on what is causing the problem. Avoiding dehydration and good oral hygiene, including brushing and flossing, are important. Some mouthwashes, lozenges and toothpastes can assist in fighting halitosis.

Gentle but effective tongue cleaning may also be required. A variety of tongue brushes and scrapers have been produced in recent years. The tongue should be brushed in a gentle but thorough manner, from the back towards the front of the tongue, keeping in mind that the hardest to reach back portion smells the worst.

People with chronic sinusitis may find the regular use of a saline nasal spray helpful. A course of an antibiotic, effective against anaerobic bacteria (such as metronidazole, to reduce the overgrowth of sulphur-producing bacteria), may also help. Speak to your dentist, doctor or chemist to identify the cause of your halitosis and to find the most effective treatment for you.

How Is Bad Breath Treated?

  • To help improve your breath:
  • Gargle with water.
  • Brush your teeth, tongue, roof of your mouth, and gums at least twice a day with toothpaste.
  • Floss your teeth once each day.
  • Eat a low-fat diet rich in fruits and vegetables.
  • Eat less meat.
  • Do not smoke or use other tobacco products, such as snuff or chewing (spit) tobacco.
  • Avoid foods and drinks that cause bad breath, such as garlic and alcohol.
  • Eat at regular intervals. Dieting or missing meals can decrease saliva and cause bad breath.
  • Chew sugar-free gum, suck on sugar-free mints, or drink water, especially if your mouth is dry. Try using breath sticks, which contain the ingredients found in a mouthwash and dissolve in your mouth.
  • Remove dentures, removable bridges, partial plates, or orthodontic appliances and clean them once each day or as directed by your dentist. Pieces of food and germs can collect on these appliances and cause bad breath.
  • Use a mouthwash for temporary relief of bad breath. Swish it around in your mouth for 30 seconds before spitting it out.
  • Have regular dental checkups.
  • Make an appointment to see an ear, nose, and throat specialist (otolaryngologist) if you have frequent problems with mouth odor.


Thank you for reading this article, and check back frequently for other dental health articles. Should you have any questions, please contact Apple Tree Dental today!

Article Compiled by Apple Tree Dental.

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