What is Halitosis and Why Do You Get It?


Have you ever have bad breath? It’s fairly common. Even if you aren’t aware of it, other people may notice and let you know. It may be subtle – a step away from you as you speak – or a direct complaint that your breath is bad. When a patient asks me what causes their bad breath, here’s what I say: 

Halitosis, the medical name for bad breath, can be either a relatively normal and temporary condition or a symptom of a more serious condition. Here’s what you need to know:

1.  Something in the mouth causes most instances of bad breath.

Millions of bacteria live in your mouth, thriving in the moist, warm condition. One of the most common examples of halitosis is “morning mouth” which is caused by the slowdown of saliva production while you are sleeping. During the day saliva washes away food and decay; at night bacteria feed on dead cells and produce odors. That’s why a familiar remedy for “morning mouth” is a cleansing with water, mouthwash, or your first glass of juice. Otherwise, it disappears with the first teeth brushing of the day.

2. What you eat can affect your breath. 

All the food you eat starts breaking down in your mouth. As foods are digested and absorbed into the bloodstream, they are eventually carried to your lungs and given off in your breath. If you eat foods with strong odors (such as garlic or onions), brushing and flossing — even mouthwash — merely covers up the odor temporarily. The odor can linger until the foods have passed through your body.

3. Poor oral hygiene contributes to bad breath

Without regular and frequent brushing and flossing, bits of food stuck between the teeth will decay and cause a foul odor. Over time, neglect can lead to periodontal (gum) disease, which is also a source of bad breath.  If your problem is poor dental hygiene, you’ll see improvement quickly. A dental exam and thorough professional cleaning at your family dental care practice, combined with regular brushing and flossing, will freshen your mouth right away. Another way to combat bad breath is to drink enough water every day to help your body make saliva. Swishing your mouth with water can loosen bits of food. If gum disease or tooth abscess is the cause of your bad breath, proper dental treatment is an immediate cure. There is no substitute for dental care.

4. Certain medical conditions cause bad breath.

Infections in the mouth, including some cavities; respiratory infections like sinusitis; and diseases such as diabetes and kidney disease are all linked to bad breath. Sometimes bad breath can be a sign that a medical condition needs attention right away. If your bad breath persists in spite of a healthy diet and good oral hygiene, you should contact your dentist or physician.

If you are troubled by persistent bad breath, contact Dr. Nishan Halim, a restorative dentist in DC, to schedule a dental exam. 

Remember, healthy teeth make a healthy smile!

Dr. Nishan Halim

Nishan Halim, DMD specializes in adult and pediatric restorative and cosmetic dentistry, as well as preventive dentistry, which is at the heart of this Capitol Hill, Washington DC neighborhood dental center.  If you have questions about your halitosis, contact Dr. Halim to schedule an appointment. Find out how he can help you maintain your healthy smile.

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