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Have you seen people turning away their faces while talking to you? Or have you thought of stepping back when speaking to someone standing close to you? The reason in both these cases is same, that is, halitosis. What is halitosis and how to get rid of it, is discussed in the following paragraphs.

Halitosis: An Overview

Halitosis is the medical term for what we generally call as bad breath. It is more of a symptom, rather than a condition. The bad or unpleasant odor in the exhaled breath.

Bad breath causes a lot of social embarrassment. This is the reason, many people buy mint, gums, mouthwashes, etc. to get rid of the unpleasant odor in their breath. However, these over-the-counter products gives one a temporary solution to the underlying problem. In most cases, it is due to eating something smelly or in about one-third of the cases, dental problems.

Symptoms of Halitosis

A person suffering from halitosis is not usually aware of the odor of his/her mouth. This is because, the nose generally becomes used to the constant odor of the mouth. However, one realizes they are suffering from bad breath, when people around them suddenly step back or turn away while they talk. Friends may even directly tell a person about their bad breath.

Other symptoms of bad breath include:

  • Bad oral hygiene causing plaque or food to stick to the teeth, leading to yellow teeth or swollen gums.
  • Mouth infections that cause reddening of the gums, bleeding as well as pus draining between the teeth.
  • Sore throat, fever, stuffy nose, greenish or yellowish nasal discharge indicating respiratory tract infection.
  • Dry mouth
  • Smoking cigarettes, pipes, cigars, etc. causing bad breath

Causes of Halitosis

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Halitosis occurs due to the action of bacterial colonies in the mouth that produces sulfur. Bad breath may also result due to:

  • Dry mouth caused by stress, alcohol, medicines or other underlying medical conditions
  • Smoking that leads to depletion of oxygen in the mouth
  • Dental conditions such as periodontitis, tooth decay and poor oral hygiene.
  • At times acid and bile reflux from the stomach, also leads to halitosis
  • Post-nasal discharge during a respiratory tract infection
  • Eating foods such as garlic, onions, cheese, cauliflower, etc. can lead to temporary mouth odor
  • Medical conditions such as diabetes, kidney failure, biochemical disorders, etc. can lead to bad breath

Diagnosis for Halitosis

Most often, halitosis is self-diagnosed. However, persistent halitosis, requires medical intervention to find out the cause. Some of the diagnostic methods to check for the level of odor, enzymes responsible a well as other causes includes:

  • Halimeter
  • Gas chromatography
  • BANA test
  • β-galactosidase test

Treatment for Halitosis

Bad breath can be reduced by avoiding cavities, gum diseases as well as maintaining good oral hygiene. Also, avoid eating foods that leave a bad odor after consumption. If you do eat them, make sure you rinse your mouth well, to avoid the smell. The dentist may suggest use of mouthwashes and toothpastes that helps in prevention of odor as well as kill bacteria that causes bad breath.

In case of dental diseases, the doctor may treat the condition and help you get rid of the bad breath.

There is nothing to be ashamed of bad breath. Instead, find a way to overcome the embarrassing condition and keep your mouth smelling fresh. Speak to a dentist, to find the cause of your bad breath and continue with good oral hygiene. Halitosis is a simple to get rid of for good.

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Written by: Saptakee sengupta
Date last updated: March 23, 2016