Bad breath?
December 06, 2021
Call it oral malodor, bad breath, or halitosis – it can be an embarrassment. But what causes bad breath, and is there a way to prevent and treat it?


Ina Alberts

Call it oral malodor, bad breath, or halitosis – it can be an embarrassing issue that needs to be dealt with.  The most common cause of bad breath originates in the mouth and can be treated if the root of the problem is addressed.

An ineffective oral hygiene routine can result in anaerobic bacteria breeding. Bacteria can breed on the tongue, in the throat, tonsil area, below the gum line or in cavities. These bacteria feast on proteins in our mouths. As a result, sulphur compounds are released, and chemicals are produced, both of which smell very bad.

Plaque accumulation around our teeth and gums can lead to Gingivitis (gum disease) which can progress to Periodontitis (gum disease affecting the bone around teeth) if left untreated. Often we’re not aware of our gum health as gum disease is not painful. Signs to look out for are swollen, red, tender or bleeding gums, an oral malodor or a bad taste in your mouth. Any of these signs should prompt you to visit the dentist/ oral hygienist.

Other oral causes which might be the culprit may include any of the following. Cavities (tooth decay) can harbour food particles and bacteria which can also result in bad breath. Saliva has an important cleansing function. If you suffer from a dry mouth, you might be more prone to bad breath and gum disease. The use of special oral care products can help, but more regular visits to the dentist and oral hygienist are also necessary. A post-nasal drip from Sinusitis can result in mucous accumulating on the tongue, also harbouring bacteria and leading to bad breath.


So where do you start, and how is bad breath treated?


The best place to start is with a dental examination so that possible causes can be identified and treated. These may include cavities (tooth decay), dry mouth, gum disease or sinusitis, to name a few.


A visit to the oral hygienist is recommended so that your gum health can be assessed and treated. Gum disease is treated with professional cleanings. This is necessary as plaque accumulation below the gum line might not be accessible to you to clean. Oral hygiene home care instruction will be given, and specific oral care products may be recommended.


Referral to a different specialty if necessary (e.g. Ear, nose and throat).

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