The science behind bad breath

(Courtesy of Riddhi Jani)

Dental hygiene is one of the most important health factors an individual can look after. When neglected, all sorts of problems can arise. Some of the issues range from cavities, tooth sensitivity, and — perhaps most annoyingly — bad breath! 

Though everyone has likely experienced some bad breath at one point or another, Colgate reports that one in four people deal with halitosis on a consistent basis. But it may take more than a piece of gum to get rid of this problem. 

According to Hopkins Medicine, getting rid of this stinky issue begins with identifying the cause of one’s bad breath. 

The reasons can be plentiful and vary from individual to individual, with lifestyle and habits playing a big role. 

One of the most common reasons is specific foods, as things like garlic and onion tend to linger in the mouth for longer. 

Neglecting your oral health care doesn’t do you any favours either, as a lack of proper brushing, flossing, and dental exams can contribute to a buildup of bacteria in the teeth, gums, and tongue, which could even progress into more serious complications. 

“Bacteria can be a big problem that contributes to so many different infections. If left uncared for, it can habitate the mouth, release toxins, and reproduce, making the problem much more severe over time,” says first-year health sciences student Jai Ramroop.

Chronic dry mouth, also known as xerostomia, can also contribute greatly to the unwanted oral odour. When the mouth is constantly dry for long periods of time, the saliva cannot move through the oral cavity to break down leftover food debris. The reason behind dry mouth will depend on the individual, but most commonly can result from mouth breathing, a salivary gland disorder, or as a medical side effect. 

On the more serious side of things, halitosis can be a sign of periodontal disease: a gum disease in which an infection erodes the soft tissue and bone that supports the teeth. This is a condition that would need immediate care by a dental professional. 

Tobacco products and smoking in general often lead to bad breath as well. The use of such products leads to an increase of bacteria in the mouth and can often coincide with the aforementioned dry mouth. 

When it comes to treatment, the best place you can go to is your dentist. They can assess your individual oral health and recommend specific remedies to tackle the cause of your problem directly. 

“The most important thing an individual can do in terms of oral health care is to come into a dentist for regular visits. It sounds simple, but so many people don’t do it. You should be visiting your dentist at least twice a year, and more if you have underlying health conditions or complications. Once they identify the problem, they can give you tailor-made advice to treat the difficulties you’re having,” says second-year University of Alberta dentistry student Nadine Yzia. 

But, generally speaking, there are definitely some things you can do to prevent and treat the problem. 

The most obvious — be on top of your oral health care. Brush twice daily, and floss at least once a day. Brush your tongue and roof of your mouth as well, as this is where most halitosis bacteria are found. If you smoke, try your best to reduce the habit and eventually quit. It can also be helpful to chew sugar-free gum or eat foods that heavily stimulate saliva, such as carrots and apples. 

It’s also crucial to be conscious of your overall health, and to visit a doctor for checkups regularly. Bad breath can sometimes be caused by another underlying health condition like diabetes, acid reflux, and even allergies.

About the Author

By Shivam Sachdeva

Health Editor

health@excal.on.ca

Shivam is a driven undergraduate Political Science student with a penchant for health, wellness, and communicating it to people. He believes living a healthy life equates to a happy life, and rejoices in learning all kinds of new health facts that can practically improve people's wellbeing. As his experience with professional writing continues to grow, he hopes to pursue a career in either journalism or law. When Shivam is not writing, you can likely find him working out, playing tennis, hanging out with friends or wasting endless hours going down YouTube rabbit holes.

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Akho

Where to i go and check my bad breath