Dealing with Bad Breath? Here’s How You Can Keep It at Bay
Aren’t there times when you feel the need to withdraw a little bit, stealthily put your hand over your nose or turn your head the other way when you are talking to someone who you feel is too close for comfort as he has bad breath, also known as ‘Halitosis’ in the medical world.
You are forced to suffer such people because it may be too embarrassing if not downright offending to tell. Eventually, these people become insufferable until someone very close like the spouse gathers enough wit and courage to tell them this. The biggest problem is that such a person is blissfully unaware of the malodour because one can’t smell one’s own breath!
Causes of Bad Breath
There are a number of reasons that one might have a bad breath which may be termed as pathological. Everyone, some or the other time has a breath which is not exactly pleasant but is not pathological. Just as an example, the morning breath would qualify to be called as bad breath but not pathological.
Some of these reasons could be:
1. Poor Dental Hygeine
Mostly, the reasons behind bad breath are related to oro-dental hygiene. There are bacteria which feed on the miniscule amount food residue that is left between your teeth or stuck somewhere in the oral cavity. These bacteria ferment the food and produce volatile substances which actually emit the bad odour. Several bacteria also reside in the plaque that is deposited along your gum line.
2. Dry Mouth
Many a time, just because of mouth being dry the exhaled air is malodorous. The reason may be decreased production of saliva which acts as an excellent cleansing agent normally and washes away those tiny food particles. Commonest cause of having dry mouth is having not enough water. In certain cases, it may be caused by the drugs that you may be taking.
3. Gum Disease
Bad breath that just won't go away or a constant feeling of bad taste in your mouth, may indicate gingivitis or disease of the gum which in advanced cases may be because of pus formation in the gums.
List of breath offending foods is pretty long, like garlic, onions, coffee certain strong indian spices but a very important cause of bad breath is smoking because it makes you more vulnerable to gum disease as also obtunded sense of taste.
You may be surprised to know that crash diets like fasting and low carbohydrate eating programs can produce halitosis.
5. Sundry Diseases
Very often certain conditions in the mouth, nose and throat are causing bad breath, for example acute tonsillitis, sinusitis to name a few. There are some medical conditions also like diabetes, liver or kidney diseases but we are not discussing that.
There is something called as imaginary or delusional halitosis. This is a condition in which a subject believes that his breath odour is offensive and he is a social embarrassment. However, neither the clinician nor any confidant can vouch for its existence. This may actually point towards an underlying psychosomatic disorder.
How Will You Know If You Suffer from Bad Breath?
Not very difficult. Just lick the inner (palmar) surface of your wrist. Let it dry for a few seconds; smell it. If it is bad, your breath too may be.
How Can You Keep Bad Breath at Bay?
- Cliché but still very important. Brush your teeth at least twice every day. There is hardly any thing to choose from among the various dental creams (toothpastes) available in the market.
- Even more important than brushing your teeth is to floss your teeth, that is, cleaning between your teeth with a silk like thread. Don't forget to clean your tongue thoroughly because the rough back portion of the tongue hides some bacteria which then cause bad breath.
- Some available mouthwashes can help you mask the bad breath temporarily, for example, when you are going for an important meeting but you will have to find a permanent solution to bad breath
- Make sure your saliva is flowing, so drink a lot of water and try eating healthy foods that require a lot of chewing, for example carrots and apples or other salads. Sugar free gum is also a good idea
- Extremely important is to quit smoking; the earlier you do the better it is.
- Visit your dentist regularly for dental hygiene.
- According to the modern medicine, causes of bad breath are vested in the mouth mainly. The proponents of Ayurveda feel that besides being a problem of the teeth and gums halitosis can occur because of maldigestion also. Neem is supposed to be very good for treating the diseases of gum and removing bad breath. Similarly, it is said that eating fennel seeds and cumin seeds would remove bad odour from the mouth. Drinking good amount of water is of paramount importance.
- On the other hand chewing cardamom or betel nut may mask the bad breath for a short while but is not a permanent remedy.
(Dr Ashwini Setya is a Gastroenterologist and Programme Director in Delhi’s Max Super Speciality Hospital. His endeavour is to help people lead a healthy life without medication. He can be reached at email@example.com.)
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