Bad breath is enough to end any conversation. You would imagine how embarrassing it would be if you thought you just had a whole day conversing with people with bad breath. However, when discussing bad breath this is a good place to begin. Psychogenic halitosis is a condition where an individual has ‘imaginary’ halitosis (bad breath). Such individuals have no objective evidence of halitosis and research shows their psychogenic halitosis results from a delusion of mono-symptomatic hypochondriasis. When halitosis is not a delusion it is often linked to either a systemic disease or a problem in the oral cavity. Objectively, here are some of the causes of a bad breath.
Most individuals typically have a problem of some sort in the oral cavity when it comes to bad breath. The gastrointestinal system is home to the highest number of endogenous bacteria and the mouth is the natural entrance to this system. Bacterial putrefaction is the main reason behind bad breath of oral origin. In this instance, dead bacteria undergo proteolysis and subsequent amylolysis to form products of putrefaction. These products include volatile sulphur compounds like Hydrogen Sulphide and Methyl Mercaptan. Just so you know the impact of this, hydrogen sulphide actually smells like rotten eggs. So you can imagine the recipient of your speech if this is what your mouth is producing. Interestingly, sulphur compounds form the bad breath that hits your nose when most people speak.
Other disease processes in the mouth also lead to halitosis. Periodontal disease is one of the most common oral diseases and having it literally stinks. The disease typically involves infections of structures around the teeth. These include the gums, the centum that covers the root, the periodontal ligament as well as the alveolar bone. The earliest stage of periodontal disease is gingivitis where the infection is restricted to the gums. In severe cases, the entire supporting tissues are involved. Bacteria are still the culprits in periodontal disease, especially bacteria from dental plaque. The pathogenic process of a periodontal disease leads to the formation of volatile sulphur and non-sulphur gases which cause bad breath.
The tongue has also been identified to be a source of bad breath. The surface of the tongue harbours a large amount of desquamated epithelial cells and dead leukocytes. The dorsal surface of the tongue has a large surface area and a unique papillary structure. Tongue coating leads to halitosis. Dental caries and oral ulcers have also been implicated in halitosis. Although studies show increased levels of volatile sulphur compounds in patients with dental caries and oral ulcers, the mechanism by which such patients get halitosis remains unclear.
Now that we have a firm grasp of the causes of bad breath, we can now examine the best ways to go about it. The first and most common way of fighting bad breath is by brushing your teeth regularly. Plaque and food trapped in between your teeth really do a number on your breath, so you should strive to get rid of them by brushing at least twice a day. Ideally, when you get up and especially when you’re about to sleep. If you’re particularly concerned about your breath, you should brush more often. Care should be exercised, however, to avoid overdoing it as brushing too hard can wear down the outer protective layer of your teeth (due to frictional erosion) and can leave your teeth prone to potential decay. Note, however, that your tongue actually harbours about 70% of the bacteria in your mouth so be sure to brush your tongue as well.
Another method of dealing with bad breath may be using mouthwash. Although the aim is to get mouthwash that masks bad breath, one should strive to deal with the cause and not the symptom. As such, one should get a mouthwash that kills bacteria so as to avoid the bad breath in the first place.
Another way to deal with bad breath may be by avoiding certain foods and substances. One particular substance to avoid is tobacco. Smoking can stain your teeth, damage and darken your gums as well as leave you with a bad breath. Moreover, you should strive certain foods, specifically onions and garlic! I’m sure you have spoken to an individual who just came from consuming onions and they usually have strong unpleasant breath. Strive to avoid these foods particularly before you have to meet up with other people.
Ultimately, bad breath is primarily caused by bacteria in one’s mouth and one should deal with it by improving their oral hygiene.