Bad Breath (Halitosis)

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Bad Breath Dentistry

Bad breath or ‘Halitosis’ can be a distressing problem for those it affects, but can often be managed well with the right advice.

Causes of bad breath can include:

  • Smoking
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Dental decay
  • Periodontal or ‘gum’ disease
  • Partially erupted or impacted teeth (often ‘wisdom teeth’)
  • Tonsilitis
  • Ulcerations/ fungal infections within the soft tissues of the mouth
  • Some medications
  • General illnesses (such as diabetes, respiratory and gastro-intestinal infections or diseases)
  • Dry Mouth
  • Consumption of odour-intense foods (such as garlic, onion etc)

Often the cause of the halitosis may be ineffective cleaning of food and/or odour-producing bacteria from the mouth.

Effective and gentle brushing and flossing of teeth may be insufficient to bring these odours under control.  Sometimes food debris and bacteria may accumulate in the rough surfaces of the tongue and require removal with a specialised tongue scraper or ‘comb’ that removes bacteria from the tongue the same way a toothbrush removes them from the teeth.

Mouthwashes may be of some benefit, particularly those containing the ingredients ‘chlorhexidine’ and ‘triclosan’.  However, there is a shortage of evidence to prove their effectiveness and in some cases inappropriate uses of mouthwash may result in (reversible) tooth staining.  There have been some recent concerns about the link between alcohol containing mouthwashes and oral cancer.  While these links are tenuous and debatable, the routine use of alcohol containing mouthwashes is not advisable.

Patients must be wary of ‘covering up’ bad breath with a mouthwash rather than identifying and treating the underlying cause, given that the halitosis may often be a symptom of a more serious underlying problem.

Consultation with the Mount Pleasant Dental team is the best first step to determine the cause of bad breath, and how to effectively manage the condition.


Source:  Therapeutic Guidelines: Oral and Dental 2007 Version 1