Caused by bacterial overgrowth on the tongue surface, bad breath, also technically known as halitosis, is perhaps one of the biggest social taboos and the most embarrassing health troubles a person can have even though it is neither contagious nor fatal. I don't know about you, but personally I find it quite hard to bring myself to tell another friend or colleague that he/she has breath issue even though it seems like a right thing to do if I really want to help the person address his/her problem. Perhaps it has to do with culture, I felt that it's a difficult thing to talk about and for some people the embarrassment could just be too hard to bear...
Now do a quick breath check...
If you often catch others rubbing their nose while you're talking to them or see that people are eager to offer you peppermints, or notice some people seem to get a bit annoyed or impatient for nothing and start to avoid you, you might want to ascertain if your breath has a problem and is turning others off. (A story was told over the radio that in New York, Manhattan, a hotel doorman was suspended because he has a bad breath...this shows how offensive it can be).
As humans easily get accustomed to our own odour, halitosis sufferers cannot judge if their breath stinks even when they exhale against their hands to smell unless somebody reveals it to them. The most accurate way is to visit your dentist who will be able to use a device called a halimeter which measures the amount of volatile sulfur compounds (VSCs) in the breath after you blow into a tube attached to it. Medical professionals will be able to accurately diagnose if you have halitosis.
Nevertheless, there are also a few easy tried and tested methods which you can use to check of if your breath is in order.
1. Lick Test: Lick with the tip of your tongue on the wrist and smell it after 5 seconds. Any whiff of foul smell?
2. Scrap Test: Scrap with a small metal spoon or a cotton stick at the back of tongue. Sniff it. How is it?
3. Dental Floss Test: Floss between your back teeth and then smell the floss. How pleasant is it?
The rotten egg like smell we sense in a breath disorder is actually the work of the bacteria which bury themselves in sticky coating build-up on the tongue surface and in the bits of food that cling to the back of the tongue or get stuck between teeth. And when the bacteria feed on those debris and break down the proteins in it, noxious volatile sulphur compounds (VSCs) are released into the mouth. Anyone can have an offensive breath at some point, and the most common time is when you wake up in the morning - morning breath. During sleep, the salivary glands function less and the mouth with lesser amount of saliva becomes so dry that it allows bacteria to grow and generate a highly pungent odour. However, usually after brushing your teeth and rinsing your mouth, and everything should return back to normal. If it still lingers and persists, then it could indicate a more serious problem.
Also, it's common for people to attribute the cause of breath disorder to consuming bad breath inducing foods such as garlic, raw onions, cabbage, fish, cigarettes, alcohol, and coffee, however, bad breath can occur even if your diet does not include any of those notorious foods. Many a time, the root causes lies in the mouth rather than from our digestive system.
1. Dead and dying bacterial cells from oral cavity release a sulphur compound which gives the breath an unpleasant odour.
2. Gum disease caused by food trapped in gum pockets which rot and ferment and releases sulphur products.
3. Smoking encouraging gum disease which affects oral hygiene.
4. Plaque build up, which causes pockets to develop between the teeth and gums, which then accumulate food particles and allow bacteria to thrive.5. Stress and anxiety could result in drying of the mouth. Hence, offensive breath can occur during airplane trips, when giving a public speech, or taking an examination.
6. Dry mouth, or Xerostomia, is a common side effect of some medications, like inhalations for asthma and bronchitis.
7. Medical conditions can cause bad breath, including diabetes, infection and respiratory diseases which encourage bacteria growth in clogged airways and diabetes because of lowered resistance to oral infections.
8. Halitosis can occur to people who are fasting. Chewing food induces the production of saliva in the mouth. When you are not eating, saliva decreases and bacteria growth increases.
9. Dehydrated people can have bad smell in the mouth. When you become dehydrated, you do not produce as much saliva. The reduced cleaning action of the saliva allows bacteria to grow.
Many people believe that mouthwashes can treat halitosis. Unfortunately, most conventional mouthwashes are ineffective and only temporarily mask the bad smell. Also, don't count on mints and gums to save your breath. Although they may make your mouth feel fresh and clean for a while, they do little to fix the root cause of halitosis.
Our grandparents' bad breath home remedies, which often work by reducing the amount of bacteria in the mouth, continue to be popular even till this modern day. One folk remedy:
- Mix 1 Teaspoon Honey, 1/8 Teaspoon Cinnamon Powder, 1/2 cup warm water and use as a gargle in the morning and evening.
Today, propolis, a natural cure from the honey bees is also known to have strong anti-inflammatory effect and powerful local effects for healing the gums and controlling infection. There is now propolis toothpaste in the market that claims to eliminate halitosis by killing the bacteria which resides in the oral cavity, stop bleeding gums, and prevent tooth decay. Propolis kills harmful bacteria which causes tooth decay. It is an interesting fact that most antibiotics kill all bacteria, whether good or bad, and when used incorrectly produce "antibiotic resistant" bacteria, thus negating the effects of the antibiotic.
Propolis has a natural property that does not allow the bacteria to produce antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria. It acts selectively on "bad" or "harmful" bacteria only and leaves the natural flora of "good bacteria" in balance.
Maintaining a good oral hygiene of the mouth is the best defence for halitosis. It takes nearly three minutes to completely brush all tooth surfaces, yet most people spend only about half a minute brushing their teeth and miss miss tooth surfaces where bacteria are allowed to proliferate and create VCSs. Flossing helps to remove the plaque formed on the teeth. By using toothpaste that contains fluoride, drinking plenty of water and having your teeth cleaned professionally by a dentist every six months can help to prevent oral health problems. Lifestyle factors such as quitting smoking, cutting down on alcohol, and of course brushing and flossing the teeth are some good breath-care practices. Bad breath doesn't have to be permanent. By religiously following a daily oral hygiene routine, you can freshen up your breath and regain your self confidence.