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What Is Bad Breath? What Is Halitosis? What Causes Bad Breath?

The medical term for bad breath is halitosis, fetor oris,ozostomia, or stomatodysodia. It means an unpleasant odor of the breath of a person. Halitosis is common among humans around the world and is usually caused by an accumulation of bacteria in the mouth as a result of gum disease, food, or plaque.

Often, the person with halitosis does not know about it before others do. Most people nearby may be too embarrassed to say anything. The majority of people with halitosis who don't know they have it are told by a family member or close friend.

Experts say that at least half of us have halitosis at some point in our lives. Meals with strong tasting foods, such as onions or garlic may result in what some people may consider as bad breath. Some types of bad breath in one culture may not be considered as such in another. Lifestyle may also influence whether certain kinds of "breaths" are smelly and unpleasant; a non-smoker may find a smoker's breath unpleasant, while another smoker may not. However, smoking is linked to a higher risk of dry mouth, dental and gum diseases, which can cause bad breath.

Preventing, curing or masking bad breath is big business. The shelves of supermarkets, pharmacies, and several other types of retail outlets are usually well stocked with a wide range of mints, gums, mouthwashes, sprays and other products aimed at combating bad breath. In the majority of cases they only control the bad breath for a short while - the shopper would be better off focusing on floss, toothpaste and a good toothbrush.

Good dental hygiene can improve bad breath and is usually considered the best preventive measure. Somebody with good dental hygiene who continues having bad breath may need to see a dentist to find out whether an underlying condition may be causing it.

What are the causes of bad breath?

Halitosis can have a number of different causes, including:

Poor dental hygiene - experts say that at least 90% of bad breath cases are caused by poor dental hygiene. When we eat, the food is broken down by bacteria that live in our mouths naturally. As the food and proteins are broken down gas is released - this gas (e.g. hydrogen sulfide vapors) is smelly. After swallowing, some of the food is trapped between our teeth and decomposes (rots) - bacteria continue breaking it down.

Rotten eggs usually give out hydrogen sulfide. The stench that is sometimes smelled in barnyards is usually created by methyl mercaptan. Sometimes the ocean may smell, this is partly caused by dimethyl sulfide. Bacteria that live in our mouths excrete hydrogen sulfide. These are all sulfur compounds. Dentists often refer to these compounds as VSCs (volatile sulfur compounds). Volatile means they evaporate readily, even at normal temperatures.

The best way to prevent food from remaining in your mouth after you eat is to brush and floss your teeth regularly and properly.

Bacteria also combine with food and saliva and form a colorless, sticky film on the surface of the teeth - this is called plaque. If you don't brush your teeth regularly or properly plaque can build up. The accumulation of plaque eventually irritates the gum, causing gingivitis and tooth decay, which can also cause the mouth to be smelly.

Poor denture hygiene - people who use dentures and don't clean them regularly have a higher risk of bad breath. If the dentures don't fit properly food is more likely to get stuck.

Dry mouth remedies - our mouths are moistened and kept clean with the help of saliva (spit). If the mouth is dry dead cells can build up on the tongue, gums and the insides of our cheeks. These cells then start to rot and give off an unpleasant smell. Smoking can cause dry mouth. If you have a problem with your salivary glands you are more likely to suffer from dry mouth, and possibly bad breath.

Morning bad breath - most of us find that our mouths are not as nicesmelling first thing in the morning, compared to later on during the day. Our mouths tend to become drier when we sleep. People who sleep with their mouths open will probably have a dry mouth when they wake up. Once we are up and start eating the flow of saliva increases, and with good dental hygiene the morning bad breath is usually temporary.

Food and drink - certain foods, such as onions, garlic and some spices may cause the breath to smell after consuming them. Alcohol and coffee might also cause bad breath. Bad breath from garlic is not caused mainly from the bacteria, but from the garlic itself - many people would argue that garlic breath is not unpleasant, and therefore not an example of halitosis. The bacteria in our mouths tend to give off higher volumes of smelly gases when they decompose proteins, such as meat or fish. If bits of meat get stuck between your teeth and you don't clean them properly, your risk of having bad breath is significantly increased.

Medications - any medication that causes a dry mouth or nose is more likely to cause bad breath, examples include antihistamines and drugs for treating sinus problems.

Smoking - smoking does not cause bad breath just because of the unpleasant smell of smoke that has been in the mouth and the respiratory tract. Smokers are more likely to suffer from gum disease and other dental problems which cause bad breath. A significantly lower percentage of non-smokers have bad breath compared to smokers.

Illnesses, conditions and situations - experts say that about one tenth of all cases of halitosis are caused by an illness or medical condition.

What Is Bad Breath? What Is Halitosis? What Causes Bad Breath?  

The medical term for bad breath is halitosis, fetor oris,ozostomia, or stomatodysodia. It means an unpleasant odor of the breath of a person...

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