Bad breath: together with "Body odour" it could be your worst nightmare ! Worst still, your best friends probably won’t tell you that there is a problem through fear of offending you !

Whether you are worried about bad breath in the moment of an intimate embrace or the risk of compromising the success of closing that all important business deal, it is good to know that health care professionals now mostly understand the cause of halitosis.

How do I know if I have bad breath?

It is very difficult to check it out on your own by self assessment. Have you ever been in the scenario where you are talking to a friend or work colleague and you noticed they recoil back about a metre with a troubled expression (Turning away from you, covering their face momentarily, a strained expression, watery eyes)? If you’ve noticed this, you may have a problem. It is often the intimate moments when halitosis really becomes apparent. Your partner may be reluctant to kiss or draw away only allowing the briefest of kisses.They may even turn their face from you. Halitosis could really spoil those precious, intimate moments with the person you love!

There are ways to measure for possible halitosis using sensitive gas analysers. If you are bold you might pose the question to either a professional health advisor such as a dentist or perhaps ask a trusted friend who you think will be honest with you. Frankly, it is safer to assume that, even if it is not all the time, many people can and do have breath that may be offensive. Prevention is therefore better than cure.

The good news about the treatment and prevention of halitosis is that it not only stops bad breath but it significantly helps to control and prevent gum disease.

So what causes halitosis?

Over ninety percent of halitosis originates from the mouth. Only very rarely does offensive breath originate from the stomach. If you do have a problem with gastric reflux ("Heart burn," which is partly digested food coming up from the stomach into your mouth) it may be due to a hiatus hernia and you should seek a doctors opinion. Again, very rarely is long term halitosis due to lung or respiratory tract infection or disease.
So what does causes halitosis? Even in the cleanest mouth there are millions of bacteria that have the potential to decompose microscopic food particles taken in to the mouth while eating. This conglomeration of bacteria and food debris known as "Plaque" can emit odorous gases such as hydrogen sulfide, methyl mercaptan, dimethyl disulfide and others.

These gases are the result of anaerobic metabolism which is basically bacteria digesting food in the absence of oxygen. The more areas where plaque collects both above and below the tooth gum edge, the greater the amount of anaerobic bacterial activity and so the greater the volume of offensive gases which are produced.

Thus it follows that those who remove plaque less effectively tend to have halitosis together with those who struggle with gum disease. When the gums become inflamed and swollen (Gingivitis and periodontitis) they fill with more blood and the bacteria putrefy both food debris and blood. Any area where plaque accumulates can result in halitosis, even on plastic dentures that have not been regularly and thoroughly cleaned.

So bad breath can largely be prevented by removing bacteria as far as possible from round the teeth and tongue on a daily basis. This can be achieved using various hand held devices and dedicated oxidising agents which neutralise offensive, noxious gases that cause halitosis.

Morning Mouth

Everybody is aware of their mouth being dry in the morning. This is due to the reduction of salivary flow during sleep (Saliva is the fluid that naturally lubricates the mouth. This comes from 4 major salivary glands that drain into the mouth and many thousands of minor glands). "Morning mouth" may be significantly made worse by taking certain medications prescribed for treating depression or controlling blood pressure. Consumption of alcohol will also cause reduction in salivary flow due to dehydration. People who breath through their mouths cause excessive drying of the oral region; this may be due to difficulty in breathing through the nose. In the same way that stagnant water can emit offensive smells, so slow flow or stagnation of saliva will result in odours due to increase in bacterial activity (Saliva is the bodies natural defence against bacterial development). "Morning mouth" can easily be addressed by rinsing the mouth with clean water, drinking half to one litre of clean water (Especially if any significant amount of alcohol has been consumed !) and then eating some bread or cheese to stimulate natural saliva production. Citric fruit juices (Such as fresh orange juice) should be avoided early after waking due to slow saliva flow which is unable to neutralise and protect teeth from the strong acids in citric juice (Acids can erode tooth enamel).