What causes bad breath and how to make it a thing of the past
Advice from our GP on the causes of bad breath and how to treat it.
Q. What are the causes of bad breath and is there any medicine to cure it?
Dr Nina replies: The medical term for bad breath is halitosis. It is extremely common and is thought to affect most people at some stage in their lives. Coffee breath and cigarette breath can be particularly unpleasant. We have all experienced garlic breath at some stage. Onions and spicy foods can also cause halitosis. Alcohol breath is often most pronounced the next morning.
Morning breath occurs due to the fact that we produce less saliva at night. Our mouths become drier. This allows food debris and dead skin cells that are normally washed away to accumulate. Bacteria work on these producing the familiar unpleasant smell.
Any disease of the mouth can cause halitosis. Bacteria colonising the tongue can produce sulphur compounds and may cause halitosis.
Those who suffer with chronic sinus problems and congestion may have increased levels of bacteria present, which can affect breath. These people also tend to mouth breathe. This leads to a dried mouth, which is another cause of halitosis. Other respiratory conditions can also contribute.
Acid reflux or stomach problems are another cause. Helicobacter pylorus is a bacteria that can live in the stomach and lead to conditions such as heartburn or gastritis. Treating these conditions can improve breath in some people.
To manage halitosis, ensure you have good gum and dental health and to have any active dental disease treated. Drink plenty of water. Avoid smoking and drinking too much coffee. Brush your teeth and tongue regularly. Use a daily antibacterial mouth wash (chlorhexidine). Floss your teeth daily.
Visit your doctor to be assessed for any sinus, throat or gastrointestinal problems. A course of medicine to eradicate stomach acid may help.