Halitosis

Specialty of Dentistry

What is halitosis?

Halitosis is a common problem characterised by an unpleasant odour on the patient’s breath. Normally, halitosis is caused by poor oral hygiene, with bacteria breaking down pieces of food trapped in the teeth and releasing foul-smelling gases. Halitosis can affect the patient psychologically, due to the stigma of bad breath, and can lead to problems in their social life.

What causes halitosis?

In most cases, the causes of bad breath are oral in nature. In some cases, the smell may originate from the nose, sinuses, throat, lungs, oesophagus, or stomach. Some common causes are:

  • Poor oral hygiene – bacteria will build up in the mouth, attracted to pieces of food trapped in the teeth, and will release toxins and gases that cause the unpleasant smell.
  • Gum disease
  • Eating strong-smelling food, such as garlic and onions.
  • Smoking
  • Drinking alcohol
  • Occasionally, certain illnesses or medications can also cause bad breath.

Can it be prevented?

Halitosis can be prevented with good oral hygiene:

  • Thoroughly brush your teeth and gums twice a day
  • Floss daily
  • Clean your tongue regularly.

You should also book periodic check-ups with a dentist to ensure that your teeth and gums are healthy.

What is the treatment?

In most cases, improving oral hygiene is enough to eliminate bad breath, brushing your teeth and gums, flossing and cleaning your tongue as a daily routine.

Cutting down on or avoiding tobacco, alcohol or certain foods and drinks such as coffee may also be recommended.

If the halitosis is a consequence of a different pathology, such as gastro-oesophageal reflux disease or a H. pylori infection, you may be referred to a relevant specialist to deal with the cause.

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