Bad breath

by Dr. Chris Singh

Bad breath, or in medical terms halitosis, is generally not a significant medical condition. However in severe cases, bad breath can cause a lot of embarrassment and even anxiety.

The odours and severity of bad breath vary from person to person.

Unfortunately, it is often difficult to assess how your own breath smells. The best solution is to consult a relative or close friend if you have any concerns about your breath.

In most cases, the source of bad breath starts in the mouth. As food breaks down in the mouth, the bacteria present increases, which may cause bad breath. Certain foods such as onions, garlic and certain spices may also lead to foul-smelling breath.

In addition, as food digests and enters the bloodstream, it may affect one’s breath when the blood is carried to the lungs. The use of tobacco products may also lead to bad breath. Smokers and oral tobacco users are at a higher risk of gum disease, which is another source of bad breath.

Another cause of gum disease is poor dental hygiene. Daily brushing and flossing removes food particles from the mouth, decreasing the likelihood of bacteria growth and subsequent foul-smelling breath. Dentures that are not properly fitted or are not cleaned on a regular basis can also harbour odour-causing bacteria.

Dry mouth is another common cause of bad breath. Saliva helps to clean the mouth by flushing out particles that may cause bad odours. It is fairly common to experience a dry mouth when sleeping at night, especially if you are a mouth breather. This often leads to what is commonly known as “morning breath.” Certain medications can also cause dry mouth.

Another fairly common cause of bad breath is chronic acid reflux of stomach acids. Generally, only severe causes of acid reflux will lead to foul-smelling breath.

If you are concerned about the smell of your breath, it is recommended that you consult with a physician or dentist.

After taking a detailed medical history, your health-care professional will perform a physical examination of your mouth, which usually includes scraping a sample from the back of the tongue. If necessary, more sophisticated tests that can identify specific chemicals may be ordered.

Once the cause of the bad breath is identified, a specific treatment will be recommended. If oral health is the cause of the bad breath, your dentist will usually suggest using specific mouthwashes and toothpastes designed to reduce the bacteria and plaque build-up in your mouth.  In addition, treatment to resolve dental issues such as gum disease may require professional attention from a dentist or dental hygienist.

As I always say, prevention is the best medicine. Thus, maintaining good oral hygiene by brushing and flossing on a regular basis ifsvery important.

One thing to keep in mind is, remember to brush your tongue, as it can harbour bacteria as well. Many toothbrushes have a built-in tongue cleaner. Individuals with dentures or dental appliances must remember to keep them as clean as possible.

Try to avoid foods that are sticky and high in sugar as they can cause bad breath. Finally, try to see your dentist on a regular basis to have your teeth examined and cleaned.

If you keep this simple prevention tips in mind, you will be well on your way to having fresh breath.

Until next month, drive safely!


Dr. Christopher H. Singh runs Trans Canada Chiropractic at the 230 Truck Stop in Woodstock, Ont. He can be reached at 519-421-2024.

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  • Thanks to Dr. Singh for bringing up the topic of bad breath. As the Director of the National Breath Center and who specializes in the treatment and cure of bad breath in the U.S., I would like to add some information. Bad breath hails from the tongue coating and under the gums. Its cure is the total removal of this coating, or biofilm. Unfortunately, if you have severe bad breath, removal of the biofilm usually must be by professional means. How do you know? When mouthwash and mints only work for a short time you are beyond the point where your own oral hygiene practices will solve the problem. Of course, if you smoke, that alone will give you bad breath that cannot be cured until the smoking stops.
    So, do everything recommended here, but don’t expect a cure if these methods fail. See a dentist trained in Tongue Rejuvenation.