Bad Breath (Halitosis): Causes, Symptoms and Remedies

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Bad breath happens to almost everybody, even to people who don’t care to admit it. But there’s nothing to be embarrassed about- while chronic bad breath, medically known as halitosis might have more serious causes, occasional bad breath is a common occurrence and can be prevented fairly easily with good oral care. There are many bad breath remedies, but before that let us understand what actually causes bad breath.

What Causes Bad Breath?

In the majority of cases, bad breath is caused by the presence of oral bacteria. Bacteria can form on the tongue in the following situations:

  1. Poor dental hygiene:

    Neglecting brushing or having a poor oral care routine is the most obvious cause of bad breath. You may think that only brushing once is enough, but that is far from the truth. One need to brush twice daily for two minutes each. Not doing so can easily lead to bad breath.
  2. Dry mouth:

    Dehydration, or having dry mouth due to medications you may be taking that reduce saliva in your mouth. Saliva is important as it cleanses the mouth and protects against halitosis-causing bacteria. Reduced saliva can lead to the accumulation of mouth bacteria and cause foul odour.
  3. Underlying health conditions:

    Certain diseases or underlying health issues can also lead to bad breath. Commonly, stomach-related ailments such as GERD or obstructed bowel can cause halitosis. A rare genetic disorder called trimethylaminuria can also lead to fish-like odour from the mouth.

Types of Bad Breath

Halitosis is very common, but did you know that there are multiple types of bad breath? Here are a few types of bad breath smells you should know about:

  1. Sweet or fruity smell:

    This condition is called ketoacidosis, often a side complication of diabetes. It happens due to inadequate insulin production that leads to fat burning and ketone production. This leads to a fruity odour that is somewhat similar to acetone. This type of bad breath can also occur due to chronic kidney failure.
  2. Rotten egg smell:

    If your breath smells like rotten eggs, then it could be due to underlying problems with the digestive tract. The microbes in the gut break down sulphur and release such an odour; it can usually occur in Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease or GERD or other such digestive concerns.
  3. Moldy smell:

    Sometimes when you have a sinus infection, your breath can smell like fungus because of the microbial growths or build-ups in the sinuses. This can especially happen due to the post nasal drip that is common in sinusitis.
  4. Fecal smell:

    Yeah, we know it sounds disgusting; your mouth can smell like feces if you have a bowel obstruction. Often accompanied by constipation, this occurs when the stools start to back up and the intestines aren't able to process the waste.
  5. Fish odour:

    This is a genetic condition called trimethylaminuria. It is characterized by a fishy odour from the body and mouth, and is due to the body not able to break down trimethylamine because of the lack of certain enzymes.

Symptoms of Bad Breath

Apart from the most obvious sign of halitosis that is stinky breath, here are the other symptoms you should look out for:

  1. Dry mouth

  2. A white, sticky coating on the tongue, especially at the back

  3. Plaque build-up on the surface of the teeth

  4. Mucous or post nasal drip

  5. Thick saliva

  6. Unpleasant, metallic taste in the mouth

Bad Breath Remedies

Here's how to get rid of bad breath effectively:

  1. Brush your teeth well:

    If you want to keep bad breath away, brushing the teeth for two minutes twice a day is an absolute must. It is good to use proper dental products such as an Oral-B Electric Toothbrush to remove plaque bacteria effectively. In addition to that, follow it up with a good tongue brushing- you can use a tongue scraper or simply use the back of your toothbrush if you are using a manual one. Don't forget to pay special attention to the back of your tongue, because that is where most odour-causing bacteria are found. You must have seen the whitish accumulation at the back of the tongue- that is the bacteria zone which needs to be cleaned out. So gently but efficiently scrape of this white sticky coating if you want to keep bad breath away.
  2. Floss effectively:

    A good bad breath treatment is to be thorough with the flossing routine post brushing, even if you feel tempted to skip this step. Flossing is one of the most important steps in your dental care routine, almost at par with brushing. It can help remove miniscule food particles and plaque hidden between the teeth, and keeps halitosis away. If reaching back teeth is difficult, a floss holder can help. Plain, waxed floss strips will do the trick, like the Oral-B Essential Floss that effectively clean between the teeth.
  3. Freshen up with a mouthwash:

    Round out your routine with a dental-recommeded mouthwash that fights bad breath to keep your mouth at its freshest. Not only will it leave a pleasant aftertaste and smell in your mouth (thus staving off bad breath anyway), it will also keep your mouth healthy by killing off the bacteria present in the mouth and preventing the formation of plaque.
  4. Drink plenty of water:

    Dry mouth can easily cause stinky breath, so one bad breath remedy to stay hydrated. When you go long hours without eating or drinking water, the saliva production in the mouth reduces, leading to dry mouth. Certain medications can also reduce saliva flow. Saliva is important because it acts as a 'cleanser' and washes away the bacteria. With less saliva, the odour-causing bacteria accumulates and leads to bad breath. So eat and drink water at regular intervals to avoid dry mouth.
  5. Chew sugarless gum:

    One of the simplest bad breath treatments is to chew a sugarless gum to stimulate saliva production. Eating a mint is a temporary but less recommended method for breath freshening because it can leave a sugary residue behind.
  6. Underlying health conditions:

    Chronic bad breath may be a symptom of a more serious condition, so you should consult a dental professional or medical professional.
  7. Eat the right foods:

    Learn which foods can cause bad breath and avoid them. Eat healthy foods which keep your breath fresh.
  8. Have healthy habits:

    Consider limiting behaviors that can intensify bad breath, such as drinking alcohol or smoking.

Treating bad breath is not too difficult if one follows a good oral care routine. If it is due to a health condition then a doctor can help. In other cases, follow these remedies for bad breath, make sure you take good care of teeth, and visit the dentist regularly. Also, it is important to use superior-quality dental products such as Oral-B electric toothbrush to stave off bad breath permanently.