Bad breath, or halitosis, is a common condition that can affect anyone at any age. It can be caused by a wide variety of factors. The good news is that, in many cases, bad breath can be prevented through the practice of a healthy lifestyle as well as good oral hygiene practices.
Causes of bad breath
Bad breath occurs as a result of sulphur-producing bacteria that normally live at the back of the tongue and in the throat. Sometimes, when these bacteria begin to break down proteins at a very high rate, an unpleasant-smelling gas is released into the mouth.
Apart from the sulphur-producing bacteria, the other main causes of bad breath include:
• The consumption of certain foods:
o Foods such as garlic, onions, spicy food, fish, cheese, as well as some acidic beverages such as coffee or wine can leave a lingering unpleasant smell on the breath, although this is usually temporary. Sometimes food may get caught in the teeth, which promotes the growth of bacteria. This, in turn, causes bad breath. In addition, diets low in carbohydrates can result in bad breath odour as a by-product of the body burning fat stores for energy.
• Dental factors:
o Poor oral hygiene habits can result in the build up of plaque, which can cause periodontal (gum) disease. This disease causes bad breath. Irregular brushing and flossing can result in food particles remaining trapped in the teeth, which can rot and cause unpleasant odours.
• Tobacco products:
o Smoking or chewing tobacco leaves chemicals in the mouth that are odorous.
• Health problems:
o Bad breath is related to a number of health conditions such as sinus and throat infections, bronchitis, pneumonia, thrush, diabetes, lactose intolerance and other dietary disorders, as well as some liver and kidney disorders.
• Dry mouth:
o Saliva helps to clean and moisten the mouth, but when the body fails to produce sufficient saliva, bad breath can result. This may be caused my medical conditions such as salivary gland dysfunction, connective tissue disorders or certain medications.
o A number of commonplace medications such as antihistamines and diuretics can cause dry mouth, which can lead to bad breath. Insulin, triamterene and paraldehyde can also cause this condition.
• Other causes:
o Alcoholism or the consumption of large quantities of vitamin supplements may cause bad breath.
If you are concerned about bad breath, make an appointment with your dentist to discuss the cause as well as treatment options.