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A guide to Halitosis

Ah, halitosis! It is one of the great social stigmas. One of those things that we all worry about but we’re all too polite to mention. It’s something that everybody in a room can be aware of, except for the person who has it. You can notice it immediately on somebody else. But it’s often nearly impossible to detect it on yourself. And if a good friend does one day have a quiet word in your ear, how do you go about treating your halitosis? A supply of mints and chewing gums will only take you so far...

In all seriousness, halitosis can be a socially debilitating condition. It can make people shy, awkward and self-conscious. So let’s take a closer look at what causes it.

Halitosis can be caused by a number of different factors and some of them can be very obvious. Smoking is a good example. Most people who don’t smoke and smell the odour of cigarettes on a smoker’s breath immediately. But the smoker might be so used to it they do not realise that the smell is there. The obvious (and only, in this case) solution is to stop smoking.

Many people try mints, chewing gums and mouthwashes. They can often help with bad breath, but they only really mask it rather than removing it. They can be useful after a spicy meal, for example, or when you’ve just woken up in the morning and your breath is dry and stale. But if the causes of your halitosis run deeper, they’re only really a short-term measure until you get a
proper diagnosis and treatment.

What are the deeper causes of halitosis? In the vast majority of cases, it is caused by the build up bacteria in your mouth. As you can imagine, there’s a lot of traffic going through that mouthspace. Most of it is also being chewed up and mashed around, so it gets stuck in every little nook and cranny in between your teeth and gums. The bacteria is there to break down the debris in your mouth, which releases noxious gases as it does so. If you’re a smoker, then that will make things worse. And if you aren’t looking after your teeth properly, through careful brushing and flossing, then the situation will get even worse still.

If you are not looking after your teeth properly, then the debris that builds up between your teeth and gums can lead to more serious issues, such as plaque, gum disease and tooth decay. Of course, this is not going to make your breath smell any better either – in fact, a decaying tooth in your mouth will make it smell noticeably worse until you visit your dentist and have it treated.

By now, you should be starting to get a clearer picture of what causes bad breath. There are some other factors that come into play for other people –some medical conditions, for example, can cause bad breath. But for most sufferers, it is the long-term result of poor oral hygiene.

Fortunately, this should not be too difficult to tackle. First of all, a trip to your dentist is a must. A thorough check-up will reveal any tooth decay or cavities. Then a thorough scale and polish should help to remove much of the debris stuck between your teeth. Nowadays, many dental practices have an oral hygienist as part of their team, who can provide specialist consultations of maintaining good oral hygiene.

Once you’ve had your teeth cleaned, it may help for the future to think about your diet. Nicotine and coffee are big culprits when it comes to bad breath. Now is also the time to floss and clean regularly.

Throughout it all, don’t forget too that your dentist is someone that you can definitely trust. Whereas many of your closest friends will avoid telling you that you have bad breath, your dentist will certainly have noticed and will certainly tell you if you ask them. They’re used to treating cases of halitosis, so get over your embarrassment, ask them what they think and find out what they recommend. It may feel awkward, but it could save many more awkward social situations in the future if you don’t get your halitosis treated!

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