What is Halitosis?
Halitosis is a medical term for bad breath. It is quite common in healthy people, especially when they first wake up. People suffering from bad breath often remain completely unaware of this fact until embarrassingly a good friend points it out to them. For some people bad breath is a chronic problem that affects their personal and social life, causing a loss of self-esteem and confidence.
Information regarding the prevalence of bad breath in Hong Kong is scarce since there is no epidemiological study that addresses this issue. A large study performed in Japan involving 2,672 individuals indicated that 6-23% of the subjects had bad breath. If these Japanese data reflect the prevalence of bad breath in our population, then bad breath would represent a major oral health concern among us.
What causes it?
The usual source of bad breath is the breakdown of food remains and blood by the bacteria that normally live within the mouth. People with the following lifestyles or conditions are more likely to suffer form bad breath:
- Poor oral hygiene
The accumulation of dental plaque will cause periodontal diseases that contribute to bad breath.
- A dry mouth with insufficient salivary flow
When the oral cleaning function of saliva is reduced, dead cells will accumulate on the tongue, gums and cheeks. These cells then decompose and cause odour.
- Poor denture hygiene
Wearing ill-fitting, unhygienic dentures or wearing dentures during sleep will produce bad breath.
It gives a bad nicotine breath.
- Intake of strong flavoured food
Strong flavoured food such as onions or garlic will cause temporary bad breath.
- Certain illnesses
Diseases such as nasal sinus infections or problems with the liver will occasionally give their characteristic bad breath.
How can I prevent it?
1. Good daily oral hygiene and dental care can prevent most cases of bad breath:
- Brush teeth with fluoride toothpaste in the morning and at night or after eating, along with appropriate interdental cleaning.
- Cleanse denture properly and take it off before sleep.
- Schedule regular dental checkups.
2. Stop smoking. As a substitute, chewing sugar-free gum can stimulate salivary flow and the saliva can enhance the neutralization of plaque acids, thereby decreasing the risk of tooth decay.
3. Drink more water throughout the day to keep the mouth moist.
4. Avoid eating strong flavoured food.
How can I help myself?
All the preventive advices apply. Consult a doctor or dentist if your bad breath persists or have any suspicions.
To learn more about other oral problems and oral care tips, visit the "Tooth Club" website under the Oral Health Education Division of Department of Health at http://www.toothclub.gov.hk/.