Let’s talk about bad breath

Bad breath (halitosis) is a common presenting complaint and we find patients are often embarrassed and often unsure about what to do or the cause. In actual fact, most people experience bad breath from time to time. Bad breath is caused by the waste product bacteria produce when they lie stagnant in our mouths for prolonged periods of time (volatile sulfur compounds.)  Seeing as all of us (except for newborns) have bacteria colonised in our mouths, bacteria waste product is unavoidable.

You may have noticed that you are most likely to have bad breath when you wake up in the morning. This is because the bacteria in your mouth have been having a field day on your teeth and gums for the whole night, without the cleansing effect of saliva which pretty much diminishes when you sleep and without oxygen.

A simple way to test for bad breath is to lick the inside of your wrist, let it dry for a few seconds and then take a whiff (sound’s gross but it’s actually a legitimate and effective test!).

If you have brushed and flossed your teeth and the lick test is still bad, then it may be a good option to consider getting checked by a dentist. Common causes for bad breath can include

1. decay

2. gum disease

3. impacted wisdom teeth

4. smoking

5. alcohol

6. dehydration

7. poor oral hygiene (especially tongue related!)

8. certain foods

9. throat/tonsil/lung/stomach related disorders

10. mouth breathing

Breath mints, mouthwashes, chewing gum often only act as temporary masks so if you think you have an ongoing breath issue, don’t be ashamed to bring the issue up at your next checkup. The solution may be simpler than you think!

Dr. Jess

BDSc. (Melb.) (Hons.)