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Healthy Living


Halitosis or bad breath is a common problem that over half the human population faces occasionally and a third of the population faces chronically. This problem can last for a brief phase or long term and often reflects your personality and personal hygiene.

A little extra care can keep the offensive odour away.

Role of Saliva
Tongue cleaners
Oral Care
For Dentures Users
For Braces Wearers
Dental Procedures
Professional Help
A Reminder

What is the cause of Halitosis?

Oral causes:It is generally agreed that a particular group of anaerobic bacteria, that live under the surface of the tongue are responsible for bad breath. These bacteria, under suitable conditions, such as food debris in the mouth, act in the oral cavity and release sulphur, which is responsible for this bad breath. The conditions favourable for this bacterial action are:

  • Improper brushing which leads to accumulation of food between teeth and on tongue.
  • Reduction in salivary action
  • Sticky, spicy, odourless food
  • Dentures that are not cleaned regularly
  • Orthodontic bands
  • Decays
  • Gum disease
  • Oral wounds
  • Extraction or other oral procedures that are not properly looked after

Other Causes:

  • Post-nasal drip
  • Respiratory problem
  • Fasting
  • Tonsillitis
  • Diabetes
  • Liver and kidney problems
  • Stress
  • Smoking
  • Alcohol

Will bad breath set off other problems?

Though bad breath is due to bad oral hygiene, it can also be the indication of a major problem - a developing gum disease or intestinal disorder. In the case of the former, the bacteria causes an infection, leading to inflammation which when left untreated, causes destruction of the gum tissue and later the supporting bone.

What is the role of saliva in preventing halitosis?

The constant flow of saliva in the mouth washes away the food remains on the tongue and vestibular area. It contains oxygen which prevents the anaerobic bacteria that produces sulphur, from acting in the mouth. In cases of xerostomia (dryness of the mouth), due to salivary gland disorders and infrequent food intake, salivary flow decreases causing malodour. Salivation also decreases at night, which is the reason for malodour early in the morning

Do tongue cleaners help prevent halitosis?

No. The bacteria causing bad odour lie under the surface of the tongue and cannot be removed by tongue cleaners. Moreover, vigorous scraping with tongue cleaners damages the tongue leading to cuts on the surface, which will worsen the condition.

What kind of oral care is necessary to prevent halitosis?

  • Generally avoid very spicy and sticky food
  • Switch over to more raw, fresh green vegetables and fruits that have chlorophyll content.
  • Take a lot of fluids
  • Brush twice a day following the correct technique
  • Massage gums daily
  • Use an oral rinse with chlorhexidene
  • Visit a dentist for treatment of decay and inflammation of gums

What kind of oral care is necessary for people wearing dentures?

Dentures should not be worn overnight. They should be removed and washed with special denture cleansing powders and brush The gums should be massaged with the index finger regularly to enhance proper blood circulation Any abrasion in the area of denture wear should be treated immediately

Oral care for people wearing orthodontic braces.

  • Special orthodontic brushes should be used for brushing
  • Mouth should be rinsed well after every meal and the food residue to be removed with a tooth pick
  • Gums should be massaged regularly to avoid inflammation

What care should people who have undergone dental procedures (eg. extraction, filling) take?

In the case of extraction, the extracted area may remain raw for about a week after which there will be tissue ingrowth. Bleeding in the area may lead to foul odour. So, frequent gentle mouth rinsing is necessary. The mouth should be rinsed regularly with warm salted water. Avoid meddling in the area with sharp instruments as pins, tooth picks, etc., as it may hinder healing. In case of filling, a filled tooth can be brushed after 24 hrs. It can be treated as any other normal tooth.

How can a dental professional help?

If halitosis is due to oral causes a dentist can:

  • Clean teeth and polish them to remove all fixed debris and dirt
  • Fill decayed tooth that has food accumulation or pus causing bad breath
  • Suggest oral rinses and medicated tooth pastes
  • Teach you proper brushing technique and various methods to maintain oral hygiene.
  • Extract or do root-canal treatment for a very badly damaged tooth
  • Suggest salivary supplements for people with decreased salivation
  • Treat oral wounds, canker sores causing bad breath.

If all these do not work, refer you to a general practitioner ( doctor) for treatment of other general illness that may be causing the bad breath

A Reminder

  • Sweets, spicy food and aerated drinks affect not only the teeth but also general health
  • Dieting decreases the flow of saliva in the mouth allowing food particles to accumulate. This will create a favourable environment for bacterial growth causing bad odour.The acids produced due to dieting also affect the surface of the teeth leading to erosion

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