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What is halitosis?

Halitosis, more commonly known as bad breath, is very common and there are many reasons why your breath may smell unpleasant.

If you’re suffering from halitosis, our doctors can help find the cause and recommend the right treatment.

It It can be a very embarrassing condition to deal with, you may not even know that you have it and other people may notice it before you do. If you are worried, you can ask a close friend or family member to check for you, or you can lick your wrist, leave it for a few seconds, then smell it to see if it smells fine, or if it’s unpleasant.

What causes halitosis?

The most common causes of bad breath include:

  • Poor oral hygiene

    If you don’t have a good oral hygiene regime, bacteria that’s there to help break down food in your mouth can build up and release a gas, which leads to smelly breath. You should clean your teeth twice a day, brush your tongue and floss in-between your teeth to help prevent it.
  • Gum disease

    If you have bad breath that just will not go away, it could be a sign that you have gum disease. Look out for sore, swollen gums which bleed when you brush them. Speak to your dentist first if this is the case.
  • Smoking

    Smoking not only causes bad breath, it can also stain your teeth, cause gum problems and reduce your sense of taste and smell.
  • Drinking alcohol

    Alcohol has a strong smell, which can stay on your breath. Cleaning your teeth or using mouthwash should help.
  • Eating strong smelling food, like garlic

    If you are a fan of strongly flavoured foods, this could cause temporary bad breath. Cleaning your teeth and using mouthwash can help get rid of the smell more quickly.
  • Crash dieting

    If you crash diet, such as cutting out carbs, your body starts to breakdown fat, which produces ketones – these chemicals can be smelled on your breath. Restoring a normal diet should get rid of the smell.

What can halitosis be a symptom of?

As we have mentioned, halitosis is usually caused by bacteria that has built up in the mouth due to poor oral hygiene, or because of the other reasons we have mentioned above.

However, there are also some medical conditions that have been known to cause bad breath, which include:

Dry mouth

This is where your saliva may not work as it should. If you do not have enough, it allows excess bacteria to build up in your mouth, causing bad breath.

GORD (gastro-oesophageal reflux disease)

This condition can cause the contents of your stomach to flow back up your oesophagus, which can cause a burning sensation and sour taste in your mouth. This condition has also been known to give you bad breath.

H.pylori infection

It is quite rare to get bad breath from stomach issues, although infections of the small intestine or stomach lining can result in halitosis.

Diabetes

Diabetics can develop ketoacidosis, where the body burns fat instead of glucose. It can result in unusual smelling breath, sometimes compared to the smell of nail polish.

Infections

Other kinds of infections can also lead to halitosis, such as tonsillitis. If you believe you may have an underlying condition that’s causing it, you should see a doctor for more advice.

Medications that can cause bad breath

Some medications can also cause bad breath as they are broken down in the Som body. So, if you have started a new medication and noticed that your breath smells, let your doctor know, as they may be able to prescribe an alternative.

How do I treat bad breath?

Most bad breath is treatable. If you believe it is an underlying condition that is causing the bad breath, speak to a GP.

Maintaining a good oral hygiene routine will help if it is not caused by anything underlying. Here area few tips:

  • Aim to clean your teeth twice a day, morning and night, using a fluoride toothpaste.
  • Brush your gums and tongue.
  • Floss between your teeth to remove particles of food.
  • Drink plenty of water to help to reduce the amount of bacteria in your mouth.
  • Visit your dentist regularly for a check-up, particularly if you think you have gum disease.
  • Chew sugar-free gum to help you produce more saliva, which helps keep your mouth clean.

If you smoke or drink, stopping is the best treatment. And if it is caused by crash dieting, resuming a normal diet should solve the problem.