Bad breath treatment (Halitosis)

Halitosis (bad breath) is a common condition caused by sulphur-producing bacteria that live within the surface of the tongue and in the throat. The treatment for halitosis will depend on the underlying cause. Poor oral hygiene,  smoking, dry mouth, dental infections and nasal or sinus infections can cause bad breath. Good oral hygiene, including brushing flossing and tongue cleaning, is important. Other treatments may include mouthwashes, nasal spray or antibiotics.

 Causes of halitosis

Apart from the sulphur-producing bacteria that colonise the back of the tongue, the other major causes of halitosis are:

  • Dental factors – such as periodontitis (infection around the teeth) or poor oral hygiene
  • Dry mouth – caused by medicines, alcohol, stress or a medical condition
  • Smoking – which starves the mouth of oxygen.

Less common causes of halitosis include:

  • Acid and bile reflux from the stomach
  • Post-nasal discharge – for example, due to chronic sinusitis
  • Kidney failure, various carcinomas, metabolic dysfunctions, and biochemical disorders, together account for only a very small percentage of halitosis suffers
  • Foods – such as onions, garlic or cauliflower, which induce certain odours. However, these effects are only short-lived.

 

Symptoms of halitosis

The features of halitosis can include:

  • A white coating on the tongue especially at the back of the tongue
  • Dry mouth
  • Build up around teeth
  • Post-nasal drip, or mucous
  • Morning bad breath and a burning tongue
  • Thick saliva and a constant need to clear your throat
  • Constant sour, bitter metallic taste.

Having halitosis can have a major impact on a person. Because of bad breath, other people may back away or turn their heads. This can cause a loss of confidence and self-esteem.

 

Treatment of  halitosis

There is no one treatment for halitosis. The treatment will depend on what is causing the problem. Avoiding dehydration and good oral hygiene, including brushing and flossing, are important. Some mouthwashes, lozenges and toothpastes can assist in fighting halitosis.

Gentle but effective tongue cleaning may also be required. A variety of tongue brushes and scrapers have been produced in recent years. The tongue should be brushed in a gentle but thorough manner, from the back towards the front of the tongue, keeping in mind that the hardest to reach back portion smells the worst.

People with chronic sinusitis may find the regular use of a saline nasal spray helpful. A course of an antibiotic, effective against anaerobic bacteria (such as metronidazole, to reduce the overgrowth of sulphur-producing bacteria), may also help. Speak to your dentist, doctor or chemist to identify the cause of your halitosis and to find the most effective treatment for you.