Sunday, March 30, 2008

Causes of Bad Breath

It is amazing the high proportion of adults and even children who suffer from bad breath, otherwise known as halitosis. I often encounter people who appear to have perfectly good teeth but at close quarters they reek of bad breath.

It is particularly disturbing when it is a child with bad breath because as you know children interact with adults they know at very close quarters in their excitement and enthusiasm to put their points of view over. It would be totally insensitive and, possibly psychologically damaging to confront a child about their bad breath.

So whether it be a child or an adult with the problem it needs to be addressed in the appropriate way so as not to cause offence or in the case of a child to damage their self-confidence even before they have had a chance in life.

We can look at the issue of finding a cure for individual cases of halitosis but first we must address at least some of the common causes of this most embarrassing condition.

First thing in the morning.

I think that most are afflicted with a touch of halitosis first thing in the morning after rising from a night's slumber. The mouth has been shut for several hours and oral bacteria have been busy multiplying on food residue left on the teeth and tongue.

Even with vigorous brushing the night before there will be some odour from the mouth and stomach on first rising in the mornings.


Another of the main culprit or cause of bad breath is the type of food you eat. Some foods are not easily digested and leave a lingering pong in the mouth for hours after consumption. These include food items containing onions and garlic. People on the go are grabbing packets of cheese and onion crisps or eating garlic bread with pizzas more and more these days. You can easily consume garlic and other spices at your local Indian restaurant or other food outlets dealing in spicy foods. If you are unable to get home for a few hours afterwards such as being out on the tiles chances are your breath will stink of the stuff you've been eating.

Tobacco and cigarettes.

Some people love the waft of tobacco smoke particularly coming from a pipe but not off someone's breath. In the case of cigarettes I have not heard anyone comment on the lovely aroma either left in their hair or on their clothes after a night out or indeed the smoke from a puff on a stick of cigarette.

Such is the annoyance of cigarette smoke that it is now illegal to smoke in public places. People who regularly smoke cigarettes are prone to stale bad breath caused by the smoke and nicotine left behind in their mouths. To non-smokers the smoker's breath often smell like stale ash-trays and it can become a social problem for nicotine addicts.

Rotten teeth.

A common cause of bad breath is due to decaying of the teeth. This may be due to consumption of excessive amounts of sugar items and lack of attention to proper dental hygiene. Sugar deposits on the teeth will lead to decay unless you brush and floss to remove it. The incidence of rotten teeth may be on the increase due to the high cost of dental treatment which ironically has improved over the last decade. More and more young children are being exposed to sugary foodstuff leading to poor health and overweight and a higher level tooth decay in the circumstances.

Gum disease.

The incidence of gum disease in a person correlates to the incidence of tooth decay referred to previously. It is caused by the build up of bacteria in the mouth that attacks the teeth due to residue of food saliva and acid forming plaques at the gum line of the teeth. If left untreated this could lead to abscess and holes or cavities in the teeth.

In due course the teeth affected will need to be extracted to save any remaining good teeth and to preserve the person's health. During the period of untreated gum disease and decaying teeth this is likely to exude a most nasty pung stench which even the person concerned can smell during normal breathing.

Dry mouth.

A lot of people suffer with dry mouth and one way to address the problem is to take numerous sips of water. The causes of dry mouth are varied and numerous but primarily it may be due to damage to the saliva glands. A parallel can therefore be drawn with those people who suffer from dry eyes.

It has been suggested also that a cause of dryness in the mouth is due to drugs for various treatments including diabetes, high blood pressure, depression etc. The fact remains however that if insufficient secretion of saliva comes to the mouth dryness will occur leading in most cases to the incidence of bad breath.

Cancer in the mouth.

It is a horrible affliction to have cancer in the mouth as this area is so visible. There are several causes including oral sex, cigarette and tobacco smoking, alcohol etc. One of the most common signs is ulcer of the mouth. If it persists for more than a couple weeks then you need to seek medical advice.

The cancer or oral cavity attacks the membrane in the mouth leading to lumps or sores which fail to heal. Your doctor can take a biopsy of the affected area to determine whether it is indeed a carcinoma. If so it must be treated immediately to stop it spreading and this usually involves some type of surgery. Any evidence of the type referred to above or bad breath should be investigated.


Diabetes is caused because the body is either not producing any insulin or sufficient insulin to convert blood sugar needed for the body's cells. It can be controlled by diet programme or the injection of insulin in the body, usually through the stomach wall or in the thigh. An indication of the condition is persistent bad breath which if you go to your dentist on a regular basis he would pick up and refer you to a physician for proper diagnosis.

The various treatments available for bad breath include proper dental hygiene such as brushing the teeth regularly and flossing, removal of plaques, brushing or scraping of the tongue, drink water, avoid cigar or cigarette smoking, breath fresheners etc.

If the cause is medical rather than oral, such as diabetes then you need to see the appropriate medical specialist for that condition.