All Dental Topics,Gum problems

Bad breath – Halitosis

3 Aug , 2015   Video

What is bad breath?

Bad breath is medically known as halitosis. Bad breath is a build up of sulphur compounds from bacteria breaking down proteins. These compounds form an unpleasant odour, which is often worst after sleeping.

It is  difficult for anyone to detect whether they themselves have halitosis. The best way to check if you have bad breath is to ask a selfless family member, partner or a close friend for their opinion. Another simple way to check if you have bad breath is to lick your wrist, starting at the back of the tongue and wiping the inner wrist to the tip. Leave the saliva to dry for 10 seconds and smell the area for any unpleasant odours. Many people think they have a problem with halitosis when they really do not.

Where does the problem come from? 

Bad breath usually originates from the oral cavity. Bad breath sometimes originates from the gastro-intestinal tract (stomach), the respiratory tract and maxillary sinus.

What causes bad breath?

Halitosis mainly occurs from an accumulation of bacteria if the whole mouth is not thoroughly cleaned daily. Other conditions that can influence bad breath are infections, illness, low fluid intake, stress, smoking, lack of salivary flow and exercise.

A lack of salivary flow can cause a dry mouth (xerostomia) and associated bad breath. Saliva is needed to moisten the mouth, neutralise bacterial acids and rinse away dead cells from the gums, cheeks and tongue. If not removed, these cells breakdown and cause bad breath. Dry mouth may be a side effect from too much mouth breathing, medications or salivary gland problems.

Certain medical problems can also cause bad breath such as respiratory tract infections (pneumonia or bronchitis), chronic sinus infections, postnasal drip, diabetes, chronic acid reflux, and liver or kidney problems.

Even though I brush my teeth daily, I still have bad breath. Why?

Brushing alone does not remove all odour producing oral bacteria. Inter-dental cleaning, tongue brushing and regular hygienist and dentist visits can eliminate more oral bacteria than brushing alone. People who have periodontal (gum) disease have more halitosis than people without gum disease. If your gums have any redness, swelling or bleed at all on brushing, flossing or inter-dental cleaning then you may well have some gum disease. However, gums may not be the only area where bad breath originates due to bacterial build-up within the mouth i.e tonsils, tongue, teeth.

Do foods cause temporary bad breath?

Certain foods such as onions, pizza, garlic, alcohol and spicy foods can cause bad breath. However, not eating these foods solves this problem. Likewise, many kinds of medication can have a similar effect.

What is the treatment options for bad breath?

Your treatment can be divided up into three different aspects:

  •  Professional Help

Following a full medical history and dental examination (which may include x-rays, photographs and gum charting), if the condition appears to be of a periodontal (gum) origin, a dentist/hygienist/periodontist will recommend a hygiene treatment. Any gingival or tissue inflammation will be treated over a series of appointments. Oral hygiene checks will be carried out to review your brushing and inter-dental cleaning technique and advice can be given to aid you in developing a good and effective oral hygiene regime.

  • Self Help

Probably the most important factor in managing bad breath is a thorough and careful home oral hygiene regime. Thorough brushing, flossing and use of other dental devices will be introduced to help with your oral hygiene. These may include electric toothbrushes, floss, mouthwash, tongue cleaners and plaque check tablets. You will be introduced to these as needed.

Drink plenty of water to keep your mouth moist. Chewing sugar-free gum also stimulates the production of saliva, which helps wash away food particles and bacteria. Gums and mints containing the ingredient xylitol is also beneficial.

Another good idea is to keep a logbook of the foods you eat. That way you can determine if there is something in your diet that is contributing to your bad breath.

Quit smoking. Smoking causes a myriad of oral health problem and can leave a very unpleasant smell.

  •  Antibiotic, chemical and mechanical help

A chlorine dioxide based rinse and toothpaste will help reduce any bad breath. The oxygen released from these products reacts with the gases causing the malodour, neutralising them and thereby getting rid of the odour. There also is a reduction in gingival (gum) bleeding.

Tongue cleaners work very well as halitosis often emanates at the back of the tongue.

Good tooth brushing (manual or electric) and flossing is essential to maintain good oral health.

Antibiotics may also be used for a short period of time to help with any periodontal condition you may have, however your dentist will discuss this with you.

Does mouthwash help?

You can buy a number of mouthwashes that claim to eliminate bad breath. Unfortunately, many of these generally provide only a temporary way to mask bad breath, for example astringent salts can serve as temporary deodorizers. There are however a few antiseptic mouthwash products that kill the bacteria that cause bad breath. Look for a mouthwash with antimicrobial agents such as products containing oxidizing agents like chlorine dioxide or sodium chlorite to neutralize volatile sulfur compounds and help control odour causing bacteria. The introduction of oxygenating compounds to your mouth will put a stop to bacteria’s chemical production of odors.

Ask your dentist about which product is best for you.


To find a New Zealand dentist/hygienist/periodontist near you who can help treat your bad breath please visit

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