When you meet with people, whether for a work meeting, family reunion, or social event, you want to make the best impression possible. You’ve carefully chosen your outfit, hairstyle, accessories, and anything else you might need to put your best foot forward.
But have you put as much thought into your breath?
Sure, your teeth may look white and you have no qualms flashing a pearly smile. But if you suffer from chronic bad breath, you may be embarrassed to smile at anyone-or even talk in front of them. If you do have bad breath, you aren’t alone.
In fact, about 95 percent of adults will suffer from bad breath at some point or another. However, 25 percent of adults suffers from halitosis and deals with its effects regularly.
Not sure if you have halitosis? Read on. Below, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about halitosis so you can treat your bad breath and feel confident in your smile-and your breath-the next time you meet with your family, friends, or colleagues.
What Is Halitosis?
As mentioned above, halitosis is a form of bad breath. However, the condition is more than just a temporary case of mouth odor. If you have halitosis, your breath seems to stink consistently. You can chew gum or suck on a mint to slightly cover the odor for a small time, but the foul odor never goes away. Additionally, the odor doesn’t usually dissipate after you floss, brush, or rinse your teeth.
To determine if you have halitosis, you can take a few steps at home. For example, you could cover your mouth with your hands, exhale, and smell to see if an odor is present. You can also lick your wrist, let the area dry, and then sniff it to see if it smells bad. However, the most effective way to determine if you have halitosis is to visit your dentist.
While you may feel embarrassed about your bad breath, you shouldn’t hide this issue from your dental professional. During your visit, he or she will ask you questions about your eating and oral health care habits and determine the source of your bad breath. Without your dentist’s recommendations, you’ll have a difficult time treating the condition on your own.
What Causes Halitosis?
Most commonly, bacterial growth in your mouth causes halitosis. After you eat, and especially if you don’t care for your teeth properly, bacteria can remain on the back of your tongue, in between your teeth, and under your gum line. The more you eat and the less you care for your teeth, the more the bacteria grow. As a result, you’ll have chronic bad breath that just won’t go away.
However, bacterial growth isn’t the only cause of halitosis-certain health conditions can have this odorous side effect. If you suffer from any of the conditions below, you’ll likely experience halitosis as a side effect:
- Liver disease
- Chronic acid reflux, or gastroesophageal reflux disease
- Kidney failure
- Sleep apnea
- Respiratory or sinus infections
Additionally, medical experts have discovered that cancer patients also suffer from halitosis.
Another way you can develop halitosis is if you have any tongue or mouth piercings or if you wear dentures. A form of yeast called Candida albicans grows around piercings and under dentures and leads to chronic bad breath.
Yet another cause of halitosis is heavy use of tobacco products, alcohol, and medication.
Is Halitosis Contagious?
Some people believe that they can catch bad breath from kissing or sharing a drink with someone who suffers from the condition. However, the condition isn’t contagious. The bacteria that cause halitosis usually stay in the affected person’s mouth, and other conditions that cause bad breath aren’t contagious either.
The only ways you’d develop halitosis are if you stop caring for your teeth, tongue, and gums; if you drink more alcohol than normal; if you heavily use tobacco products; or if you develop a health condition that causes bad breath.
Is There a Cure for Halitosis?
Unfortunately, there is no “cure” for halitosis. This condition, however, can be treated. Take the following steps to treat bad breath:
- Limit foods that induce odorous breath, such as garlic, onions, and spicy foods.
- Practice good dental care. Brush your teeth twice daily, floss at the end of every day, and use mouthwash.
- Use a tongue brush to clear plaque and bacteria off the back of your tongue.
- Get a new toothbrush every two or three months. Throw away your old one after you’ve recovered from a short-term illness as well.
- Clean your dentures nightly if you wear them.
If your halitosis stems from another health issue, meet with your primary care physician and seek treatment as soon as you can. Once these illnesses have been treated, your chronic bad breath should go away.
You should also visit your dentist regularly for routine cleanings and exams. Your dental professional can also provide you with additional tips for treating halitosis and caring for your teeth.