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15 Jan, 2021
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Halitosis? – Ask Dr. Farooq Sorathia

Halitosis? What’s That?

Halitosis is the medical term for bad breath. It can be quite embarrassing and may even cause anxiety in some people. Shelves in supermarkets are flooded with products that fight bad breath. These are only temporary measures, and it is important to get to the root of the cause. I will talk about a few things that may cause halitosis with some solutions.

There can be several reasons why someone would have bad breath. Certain foods, habits, hygiene, and health conditions may be the cause of halitosis. Many times, people avoid eating certain foods because it leaves a foul smell in the mouth. Foods such as onions, garlic, coffee are examples of foods that may cause bad breath. This is just very short-lived. Brushing and flossing, and maybe a mouthwash would help get rid of the smell.

The use of tobacco, either chewing or smoking, can also cause halitosis. When smoking, the inhaled air gets into the lungs and stays there for a while. Gas exchange happens in the lungs and the remnants of the smoke-filled air are expired (breathed out), and that is what causes the bad breath. The solution to this is simple, stop smoking. Tobacco chewing can lead to gum disease, which is one of the major causes of bad breath. Regular dental checkups and cleaning, and of course home oral hygiene play a huge role in managing halitosis.

Dry mouth can be another cause of bad breath. Many a time, we have heard the phrase “ you have morning breath”. The reason why sometimes we wake up with bad breath is when we sleep, the amount of saliva we produce when sleeping is reduced, resulting in a dry mouth. It’s natural to have reduced saliva flow when sleeping. We aren’t gonna be eating while sleeping now, will we? If you do, please do let me know how that is done. I would be interested to find out. Saliva is excellent in helping clean our teeth, but it doesn’t work on its own. Bacteria in our mouth break down food particles and their byproduct can dispense a foul odour. That is why I keep stressing to make sure you brush and floss your teeth before going to bed. We don’t want the bacteria to have a party, while we are sleeping now do we?

Poor oral hygiene is the major reason why people develop halitosis. I keep insisting on regular dental visits, and brushing and flossing daily helps keep that breath fresh. We have bacteria in our mouth (plaque), which not only causes tooth decay but can also cause gum disease, as well as staining of teeth. These are the bacteria that feast on the remnants of your meal. If not cleaned, it solidifies and becomes calculus (tartar) which then has to be professionally cleaned by your dentist. This can then lead to gum disease (Gingivitis) and bone loss (Periodontitis). With twice a day brushing and flossing, it would minimize the amount of plaque accumulating around your teeth resulting in you maintaining those pearly whites for decades.

Article Written by Dr. Farooq Sorathia (BDS – University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg)


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