Halitosis: how to avoid and treat bad breath.

Dr Marc Sher (B.Ch.D), Cape-based dentist and consultant to Litha Pharma provides information on halitosis and how to avoid bad breath.

Halitosis, otherwise known as bad breath, will be experienced by everyone at some point in their lives. The classic symptom is a foul smell that is emitted from the mouth and ranges from a mild morning breath to a severe form that can be constant throughout the day.

This foul smell comes from sulphur compounds produced by bacteria that live naturally in the mouth and throat. These bacteria are known as anaerobic, meaning that they thrive in oxygen deprived environments. Halitosis can seriously affect the livelihood of the individual involved.

Here are a few tips on how best avoid and manage halitosis.

1.       Brush your tongue

Large amounts of anaerobic bacteria can be found on the tongue. They usually gather at the base of the tongue (dorsum). It is crucial to brush the tongue as part of your daily oral hygiene routine. This can be done by using a tongue scraper or just regular brushing with a toothbrush head.

2.       Check your tonsils

The tonsils contain cells that help fight off infections, but they also contain little grooves which can attract unwanted debris.  Small white specs appearing on the tonsils are known as tonsil stones. These white ‘stones’ contain large amounts of odour producing bacteria, as well as food particles and dead cells. While these white stones are often symptomless and not easy to see, they are a major cause of halitosis. The best way treat and remove these stones is by gargling with a mouth-wash twice daily. In severe cases, a tonsillectomy is recommended.

3.       Avoid foods high in sulphur

Onions, garlic and spicy food types will create a foul smelling breath due their high sulphur content. These foods should be avoided if halitosis is confirmed. As it is nearly impossible to completely eliminate eating these types of foods, one should be wary of their affect in high doses. Maintaining a high standard of oral hygiene will be one way to safe guard against developing halitosis from these food types.

4.       Check your teeth

A rotten or decaying tooth can contain an overwhelming amount of anaerobic bacteria. Having regular visits with your dentist to check your teeth for decay, food traps and gingivitis is crucial. Flossing your teeth on a daily basis is vital to remove leftover food debris. Food left in-between the teeth will provide nourishment to the bacteria, allowing them to flourish which will ultimately lead to tooth decay and halitosis.

5.       Change in lifestyle

Smoking is one of the primary causes of halitosis. The nature of the tobacco causes the saliva to dry-up, leaving the mouth without its natural protector. Make sure you stay hydrated by having constant sips of water throughout the day to avoid this. Chewing a sugar-free gum is an excellent way of stimulating saliva flow and eliminating bad breath – but this is only temporary. Drinking coffee is also known to cause halitosis.

It may be possible that the origin of halitosis is not dental related. There are other factors that can cause bad breath that should be investigated by your doctor. Gastro-intestinal problems and acid reflux are just some examples.

Remember to visit your dentist and oral hygienist at least twice a year to maintain a high level of oral health. There is no better way to prevent halitosis than to keep up a strict oral hygiene routine. This should include brushing twice a day for 2 minutes at a time, preferably with an electric toothbrush. Flossing at least once a day and using a daily mouthwash to gargle and rinse.

For more info, see: http://www.otcpharma.co.za and call 011 516 1700.

Contact Dr Sher on 021 439 1141

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