What Causes Bad Breath: Halitosis Treatment and Cure


bad-breathWhat causes bad breathe? The causes of bad breath need to be understood before arriving at the most appropriate halitosis treatment. Halitosis is the Sunday name for bad breathe, and as we all know, it is a very antisocial condition. But do not despair – there are known causes and known cures which can be very effective in making your breath smell sweeter.

Some causes of bad breath are temporary, such as garlic breath, but in many cases it is chronic. The most common cause of halitosis is related to dental hygiene. However, if this persists after suitable dental treatment it can seriously affect those suffering it and also their friends and anyone close to them.

Bad Breath Causes

Here are some of the more common causes of bad breath:

1. Bacteria

bacteriaThis is the most common cause of bad breath. Bacteria attached to your teeth, between the teeth and in the gums, tongue and cheeks can emit unpleasant smelling gases.

Cure: Good dental hygiene can clear up many cases of bad breath. Having your teeth professionally cleaned and the plaque removed, eliminates most of the bacteria causing the halitosis.

If you do not regularly visit a dentist, having your teeth professionally cleaned and plaque removed will often be effective. This eliminates the teeth and the spaces between teeth and gums, as homes for bacteria. More on cleaning the tongue later.

2. Food and Drink

Eating garlic, onions and some spices will likely make your breath smell. Alcohol and coffee can have a similar though less severe effect, as can orange juice and soda. Cheese and pastrami can have a similar effect.

Cure: Other than eliminating such foods from your diet, there is not a lot you can do. A mouthwash can help but there are also some foods you can eat to freshen your breath. Among them are:

Apples – Eating apples can remove the garlic smell from your breath. They contain polyphenol antioxidants that break down the sulphur compounds that are the root of the problem.

Lemon – Sucking a lemon is a good, quick way to instantly freshen your breath.

Spinach, Lettuce & Parsley – These three can be as effective as apples, individually or in combination. They work in the same way as apples.

Tea – Drinking tea (black, green or peppermint) during or after eating food that taints your breath can be very effective. Tea is also packed full of polyphenols and other antioxidants that are good for your general health and promote fresh breath.

Milk – some swear by milk, and recent studies have indicated unskimmed milk to be effective at cleansing the mouth and improving the breath.

3. Dieting

Some forms of dieting, particularly those involving fasting and low carbohydrates, can emit chemicals known as ketones. These can smell unpleasant. There are specific diets that involve a high protein content with no fat. These lead to ketone emissions from body fat breakdown such as with the Atkins diet. If carried out correctly, this will more likely than not lead to bad breath.

4. Smoking

Smoking not only generates a smell itself, but also significantly assists the development of gum disease. It also stains the teeth and irritates your gums.

Cure: Stop smoking! Easy to say but not so easy to achieve! Brushing your teeth after smoking will help, as will cleaning your tongue with a tongue scraper. This is not always practicable, and using sugar-free chewing gum is a good substitute when out and about.

5. Illness and Medical Conditions

Xerostomia: A lack of saliva can create a condition known as xerostomia, or dry mouth. This enables bacteria to increase in numbers in your mouth. It can also lead to a number of different bacteria to take root, all of which can lead to halitosis. If you tend to breathe through your mouth, this can not only dry up the saliva but also introduce different strains of bacteria into your mouth.

Cure: Drink plenty water and chew sugar-free gum to stimulate saliva release. Avoid alcohol, and use an alcohol-free mouthwash. Alcohol can dry up your mouth. You can also get saliva substitutes over the counter. If you have true xerostomia, see a dentist or doctor to have it professionally treated.

Gastro-intestinal Conditions: If you have an infection in the lining of your stomach or the small intestine, then this can create foul smelling gases which can escape up into your mouth. Another condition, known as GORD, or gastro-esophageal reflux disease, can also cause halitosis. The major symptoms are heartburn, acid reflux, bloating and belching. This is cause by stomach acid leaking up into your esophagus.

Cure: See a doctor. If you suffer from acid reflux, you can often relieve this using antacids (ingestion tablets or suspensions.) Otherwise, medical help is often necessary. You may have a stomach infection or an ulcer that requires medical attention.

Nose and Throat Infections: Bad breath can also be caused by lung, nose and throat infections such as sinusitis, tonsillitis, bronchitis and similar conditions.

Cure: The smell can sometimes be hidden using mints, mouthwash or proprietary breath fresheners. A permanent cure will require medical intervention to treat the condition that is causing the halitosis. It can sometimes be dangerous to treat only the symptom without treating its root cause.

Diabetes: Diabetes can also lead the emission of ketones.

Cure – Breath fresheners are the only cure for this. You can use sugar-free chewing gum and mints, although they merely mask the odor rather then remove it. The best way for diabetics to keep their breath fresh is to keep their blood sugars normal and drink at least 4 pints of water a day. This applies to everybody, not just diabetics. Keep clear of sugary drinks and sodas, and always use the diet variety where available.

Liver & Kidney Problems: Liver and kidney problems can also lead to bad breath. Persistent halitosis can indicate improper liver or kidney function. If you have tried everything, but your bad breath will not go away, then it is imperative that you get medical help. The problem could be due to an issue with your liver or kidneys.

6. Medication

Some forms of medication can lead to halitosis. Among these are some types of tranquilizer known as phenothiazines. Some angina medication, particularly nitrates, can also contribute. Drugs used in some chemotherapy treatments are also a cause of bad breath.

Cure: Get well! Do whatever your doctor tells you. Meantime you can mask the smell of your breath using one of the methods above: apples, mouthwashes, mints and drinking tea are possiblly the best ways of doing this.

Halitosis Treatment: Some Other Bad Breath Cures

Anaerobic Bacteria

toothpasteMany doctors believe that the bacteria involved in halitosis are a form known as anaerobic bacteria. These do not require oxygen to survive, and they can be destroyed by exposing them to oxygen.

There are toothpastes and mouthwashes available that generate oxygen and kill off these anaerobic bacteria. You can also get mouth sprays and lozenges that have the same effect. In order for these to be most effective, you should brush as normal, getting into the spaces between your teeth.

You should also brush your tongue and cheeks with a soft bristle brush, and scrape the oxygenating toothpaste into your tongue using a tongue scraper. This is something like a flat lollipop stick with lateral ridges running across it. Some toothbrushes come with these ridges on the handle. This controls the bacteria deep in the tongue.

It is unlikely that you will find oxygenating remedies in your local pharmacy. They tend to be sold online through a wide network of agencies promoting such products – but they do work if your problem is anaerobic bacteria and not food-related.

Natural Substances

green_teaThere are many products out there claiming to be an affective halitosis treatment. Many do not tackle what causes bad breath, but hide or eliminate the symptoms. Any halitosis treatment that simply masks the odor will be cosmetic at best, and are often useless cures or very short-lasting at worst.

When purchasing products claiming to cure bad breath avoid those containing alcohol, and look for the following natural substances as ingredients:

Tea tree oil and green tea contain antioxidants that destroy the chemicals that cause bad breath, and as stated earlier, they are good for garlic breath. Others are Aloe Vera, xylitol (in some chewing gums and toothpastes), and look for zinc gluconate, glycyrrizic acid and Coenzyme Q10.

Antioxidant vitamins C and E and beta carotene also help to destroy the substances that make your breath smell. Supplements are OK, but it best to get then naturally from coloured foods such as blueberries, blackberries, carrots and many others. Color means antioxidants that are good for sweet smelling breath. Sugar is bad.

Include plenty fiber in your diet – fibrous and fresh fruits and vegetables are great for staying slim or losing weight, and should also help to keep your breath smelling fresh. ‘Should’ is used rather than ‘will’ because a lot depends on the cause of your condition. If you have serious liver and kidney problems then the only genuine halitosis treatment is to have these problems resolved through medical treatment.

Summary: What Causes Bad Breath and Halitosis Treatment

This can all be very confusing at first, so here is a summary of what we have discussed regarding what causes bad breath and halitosis treatment and cure.

What Causes Bad Breath:

  • Bacterial infections including oral bacteria and digestive issues.
  • Poor dental hygiene – a failure to get regular professional descaling.
  • Eating inappropriate foods for fresh breath such as garlic, onions and lots of cheese.
  • Dieting by eating excessive amounts of protein (e.g. Atkins).
  • Smoking.
  • Illness – particularly diabetes, and impaired liver and kidney function.
  • Medication

Halitosis Treatment: How to Cure or Prevent Bad Breath

  • Don’t eat garlic!
  • Stop smoking!
  • Clean your teeth regularly and clean between your teeth by flossing. Get regular dental checkups.
  • Use a proper tongue scraper to scrape your tongue.
  • Chew sugar-free gum. This helps improve saliva flow to keep your mouth clean.
  • Eat apples and antioxidant fruits and vegetables: highly colored foods are high in antioxidants.
  • Drink tea daily – this is a very effective halitosis treatment. Green tea is best but black is also OK.
  • Clean your teeth with baking soda once a day.
  • Check the ingredients of your toothpaste for xylitol, zinc gluconate and others.
  • Try to use oxygenated mouthwashes, toothpastes and oral sprays

The above steps should deal with most causes of bad breath. They should be used as part of your general halitosis treatment program. It is important that you keep to this unless your doctor or physician has identified a specific cause. Then it is a cosmetic exercise to keep your breath as sweet as possible until the underlying cause of your bad breath has been eliminated.

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