Have you noticed friends or co-workers stand further away than necessary to talk to you? Do you receive daily offers of gum and mints? Does your dog run away when you bend down and say hello? If the answer is yes to any of these questions … you probably have bad breath, also called halitosis.
How is it possible for you to have bad breath and not know it? Your body uses a process called acclimation to filter out its own scents so you can use your nose to detect outside smells. This means your nose is used to whatever odor is emitting from your mouth. Even if you cup your hand and breathe into it, you probably won’t detect foul aromas. So, how can you tell if you have halitosis?
The easiest test for determining if your breath is rank is to ask someone. Friends or family members will probably be more than happy to render an honest opinion. Another way to test for bad breath is to wipe your tongue with a cotton ball and give it a whiff. Or go to a mirror, stick out your tongue, and see if it looks whitish. Ew! That’s accumulated bacteria, which produces the sulfur compounds that create halitosis.
Why do I have bad breath?
The most common reason people have bad breath is decaying food particles and bacterial growth in the mouth, especially on the tongue. If you have poor oral hygiene habits, the accumulation of food and bacteria will make your breath smell like you ate gym socks for lunch.
There are other reasons for bad breath. Gum disease and cavities can produce halitosis, and so can systemic illnesses such as diabetes, acid reflux (GERD), and sinus infections. In fact, if you have chronic bad breath that doesn’t respond to any of your freshening and cleansing attempts—you may have a larger health concern, and should make an appointment with your dentist.
How do I avoid bad breath?
Keeping a daily oral hygiene routine can go a long way to prevent halitosis. Brushing and rinsing in the mornings and evenings, and flossing at least once a day, can remove the food and bacteria that are the main causes for bad breath. And you can brush after meals, too, to ensure any strong-smelling foods you’ve eaten are eradicated from your teeth and gums. Other measures you can take to prevent halitosis are:
Drink plenty of water. Water loosens and rinses away food particles and also encourages saliva production.
Chew gum that’s either sugar-free or sweetened with Xylitol. Chewing also encourages saliva production, and minty flavors help freshen breath.
Rinse with an antibacterial mouthwash. Your dentist may have suggestions for the best over-the-counter mouthwashes, and may also give you a prescription oral rinse.
Use a tongue scraper. These devices are designed to remove the bacteria and food debris that cling to your tongue’s surface.
Invest in an electric toothbrush. Studies have shown that electric toothbrushes are better at removing plaque, and since most of them are designed to turn off after a specified time, people tend to brush for a longer period.
Go to your regular checkups. Attending your regular exams with both your dentist and your medical doctor ensures your health issues will be addressed at their earliest appearance.