March 11, 2011

Halitosis - Causes and Risk factor

Halitosis is usually caused by simple things you can do something about. Some illnesses can cause bad breath, such as kidney or liver failure (in fact, doctors are taught to smell their patients' breath to look out for these), but if you're otherwise well it's unlikely these are causing your problem. If you're worried, though, check with your GP.

People often laugh at bad breath, but it's a serious problem and can lead to social isolation, divorce and even suicide.

 causes and risk factors

The bad smell is usually caused by chemical molecules containing sulphur. These are produced when bacteria that live in the mouth break down protein in the diet.
Other factors are important, too, including:
  • Tooth decay and gum disease - these are the main causes of bad breath. Make sure you have regular dental check-ups and see a dental hygienist. Brush your teeth twice a day and after meals with a toothpaste that inhibits bacteria, and try using a mouthwash. Look for mouthwashes that combine oil and water components, which may be more effective because bacteria and sulphide compounds are more easily dissolved in oil than water. 
  • Smoking - this is one of the most common causes of bad breath, especially because it can lead to gum disease. Stop smoking if possible. 
  • Diet - many types of food can cause your breath and sweat to smell unpleasant. Garlic is the best-known culprit, but strong spices (especially cumin) and herbs can also cause a problem. Try changing the types of food you eat.
  • Dry mouth - this can be caused by general illness, medicines and simply not drinking enough. Drink plenty of fluids to wash through your mouth, and increase saliva flow by chewing sugar-free gum. Saliva helps to neutralise the acids produced by bacteria and helps to prevent tooth decay.
Bad breath is something we all worry about and sometimes those concerns get out of hand. If you're aware of your bad breath and doing what you can about it, it may not be as bad as you think. The worst bad breath is usually found in people who neither know nor care, and neglect important factors such as dental hygiene. 

Very rarely, people worry so much that they develop a psychiatric condition called delusional halitosis. This tends to affect young men and is linked to depression (in one report, a patient with this condition used up a tube of toothpaste every four days in his despair). 

Source: BBC - Health