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Bad breath (halitosis) is overwhelmingly the result of problems that develop in the mouth; it can be embarrassing and create psychological barriers to personal relationships.
Other reasons for bad breath include kidney failure, which causes a fishy odor, infection in the lungs or sinuses, diabetes mellitus (acetone odor) and gastrointestinal disorders. Fasting may result in halitosis from metabolic waste products when, in the absence of food intake, the body breaks down fat and protein to provide energy. Some women have objectionable breath associated with the onset of menstruation.
Most people are unaware of their own mouth odor, and it is difficult to test your own breath. Exhaling into your hand is unreliable. Since 90% of halitosis originates in the mouth, you must understand its causes and eliminate or modify the risk factors.
The most common cause of mouth odor is the decomposition of food particles or other debris by bacteria. Some of the smelly end products of this putrefying process are sulfur compounds. Toxins given off by bacteria in oral infections also are odor producing.
A dry mouth due to decreased salivary flow is a contributory factor to oral odor. Saliva naturally cleanses, removing food and particles that may cause halitosis. Some people awaken in the morning with a bad taste and/or odor due to diminished salivary flow while sleeping. Individuals taking medications such as anti-histamines, tranquilizers and various blood pressure medicines may have decreased salivary flow as a side effect. Stress contributes to a decreased flow of saliva. Mouth breathers and smokers tend to dry out their mouths, and of course, tobacco has its own distinctive odor.
People experiencing dry mouth can stimulate salivary flow with sugarless gum or candy and should increase their liquid intake to six to eight glasses of water a day.
Some foods such as onions, garlic, eggs and others give off their own pungent smells. Mouthwash and toothpaste only temporarily mask these odors, and they will continue until eliminated by the body.
Good oral hygiene will remove sticky plaque that entraps food particles and provides a home for bacteria. Daily brushing and flossing will go a long way to eliminating halitosis. Tongue scraping or brushing is also important. Full or partial dentures are harbingers of plaque and food particles and should be cleaned thoroughly. Since they also absorb odors, they should be bathed in appropriate solutions. See your pharmacist or call your dentist for recommendations.
If you are still concerned about bad breath, please visit your dentist for a check-up. He or she can find and eliminate any periodontal infections or tooth decay and make specific suggestions. Don't risk having offensive halitosis. Take the proper steps.