I have bad breath. I’m ashamed to face people because of this. Can you tell me how to get rid of it? More power to your column!
– Roger of Pasig City.
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Bad breath or halitosis is not a serious disease but it can be very embarrassing. The psychological scars it causes can greatly affect a person’s social life. Sadly, the problem won’t go away unless you know where it comes from.
No matter how much money you spend on mints, gum, mouthwashes and other oral rinses, there’s no stopping bad breath unless you get to the root of the problem. These oral “accessories” simply cover up the foul odor temporarily. It’s like putting perfume on garbage. Unless you take out the trash, bad breath will remain.
It’s easy to know if you have bad breath. Your parents, best friend or relative will often tell you. Some people worry about bad breath even if they’re not suffering from it. Yes, the problem can be psychological so it’s best to ask someone else if you really want to be sure.
There are many possible sources of bad breath. The most obvious source is the mouth. Bad breath that originates there is usually caused by poor dental hygiene. If you don’t brush you teeth or floss regularly, you’re a good candidate for bad breath. The same holds true if you have bad teeth or tooth decay, and poor-fitting dentures.
Watch your diet too since bad breath can start if you’re fond of onions, garlic and spicy food. Smoking is a no-no since this not only imparts a foul odor to the mouth but it can lead to gum disease and mouth sores.
Medicines that cause dry mouth or xerostomia are other sources of bad breath. The culprits here are drugs that are used to treat depression, anxiety, pain, allergies, diarrhea, urinary incontinence, and Parkinson’s disease. They decrease the flow of saliva and give the user bad breath. Dry mouth is also common in people who sleep with their mouths open.
Diseases that affect the mouth, nose and throat can likewise contribute to bad breath. These include colds, throat infections, and other illnesses that cause postnasal drip. This happens when the body produces more mucus that drips down the back of the nose to the throat.
To stop bad breath, it’s best to see a dentist first to determine if you have any problems in your mouth. If there are none, visit an ENT specialist to see if bad breath is caused by a throat or sinus infection, or postnasal drip. If bad breath is caused by an underlying health problem like pneumonia, bronchitis, diabetes, liver or kidney problems, consult a primary care physician.
You can also prevent bad breath with these simple steps: brush your teeth after every meal. Use a fluoride or antibacterial toothpaste. Floss at least once a day to remove food particles and plaque between teeth. Brush your tongue with a toothbrush or tongue scraper. Clean dentures or dental retainers at least once a day.
To avoid dry mouth, stop smoking, drink plenty of water, and chew on sugar-free gum or candy. Avoid soft drinks, coffee or alcohol since they all decrease saliva production and make the mouth dry.
Lastly, visit your dentist at least twice a year to have your teeth cleaned and detect problems that may lead to bad breath.
Dr. Joseph D. Lim is the dean of the National University College of Dentistry, president & CEO of Dr. Smile Dental Care & Laser Center and honorary fellow of the Asian Oral Implant Academy and the Japan College of Oral Implantologists. For questions on dental health, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or text 0917-8591515.