What Is Halitosis?

Bad breath from husband.

When people brush their teeth, oral odors disappear. But, for those with halitosis the odor can linger and remains persistent. The medical term for chronic bad breath is halitosis, and the condition can be very difficult to self-diagnose as the bad scent may be familiar to those who have it, and yet it severely bothers those around them. Bad breath can significantly impact social life, work as well as other aspects of daily living and this is true for children who suffer from halitosis. If it has been noted that bad oral odor lingers after a regular brushing and flossing routine, halitosis may be to blame.

While a dentist can easily identify what causes halitosis, some of the most common causes of bad breath are: gum disease, poor oral hygiene, unhealthy lifestyle choices (poor diet, smoking or chewing tobacco), pungent foods and certain medical conditions, (such as diabetes, blood disease, lung cancer and kidney problems). Other medical issues that can trigger halitosis are sinus or tonsil infections, eating disorders (anorexia nervosa or bulimia) and other illnesses which may encourage mucus to begin developing may lead to chronic bad breath. Dry mouth can also lead to halitosis as saliva assists to rid the mouth of bacteria.

Testing to find the underlying cause of bad breath is crucial. When the main cause of halitosis can be confirmed, a dentist can then proceed to formulate a treatment plan. To determine if bad breath is a medical problem, the dentist will sniff the breath and look at the tongue and possibly scrape the tongue with a tool. This inspection can gather whether the odor is caused by a dental issue, gum disease, poor dental hygiene or a medical problem.

If the cause of halitosis is diagnosed as dental problems or poor oral hygiene, treatment typically requires an improvement in dental hygiene. Being shown how to brush the tongue, teeth and to floss correctly can all assist in combating the issue. It is also recommended to rinse with antibacterial mouthwash, but avoid rinses containing alcohol as they can have a drying effect which can promote bad breath. Keeping dental appointments is also vital to healthy oral care!

A simple change in diet can also help to eliminate debris that creates dental problems. Sticky and sugary sweets can promote tooth decay and bad breath and eliminating them will assist in managing oral odor issues. Crisp, raw vegetables can aid in saliva production, and parsley or mint can facilitate fresh breath. Eucalyptus, wintergreen, peppermint and other natural oils can be effective in staving off bad breath better than mouthwash as the oils last for extended periods where washes fade quickly. Essential oils can also help to diminish inflammation and decay which can lead to halitosis.

When the breath is bad, or a close friend or family member has suggested it is, schedule a dental appointment. Acknowledging bad breath and seeking professional assistance is a vital step towards treating and preventing further medical issues.