Dental Care

Chronic Halitosis - Causes and Cures


Chronic halitosis? In most cases, bad breath, which your dentist refers to as halitosis, develops from the overabundance of various oral bacteria. 

They are trapped in a thin whitish layer that coats the rear of the tongue; we've already discussed that in another article. 

There are other causes of chronic halitosis, however, and here we will talk about them.

You are probably aware of certain foods that have a real reputation for causing serious bad breath. 

The biggest culprits are two kissing cousins, garlic and onions.  The reason they are associated with bad breath is that they both contain high amounts of sulfur. 

We've explained to you on another page the problems with volatile sulfur compounds (VSC's), and these two foods are especially good at feeding the bacteria that thrive on sulfur. 

Many cheeses contribute to halitosis. Camembert, Roquefort, and blue cheeses leave a residue in the mouth that you don't even notice, but those VSC-loving bacteria get happy!  The bacteria also thrive on protein, so people who eat a lot of meats or seafood are prone to bad breath.

Aromatic spices such as cinnamon and curry have oils that are absorbed into your bloodstream.  The oil residue ends up in your lungs and is exhaled.  The same applies to hot peppers. Think about someone you know who eats a lot of salami and you'll get the idea.  

Strangely enough, one aromatic spice, cardamom -widely used as a digestive aid- can actually help your breath.  Many people chew its seeds to offset the effects of garlic or onions. 

Products that contain alcohol are serious offenders.  For one, alcohol tends to dry out the mouth, and you end up with less saliva to combat that whitish coating.  A second reason is that alcohol is high in sugar, which feeds bacteria like crazy. That includes any mouthwash with an alcohol content higher than 25%. 

Many people are fooled by the minty freshness of mouthwashes that don't really help them for more than a half hour. If you're trying to eliminate halitosis, the best mouth rinse you can use is a 50:50 solution of water and hydrogen peroxide -the 3% strength that you use for sterilizing cuts. 

And speaking of drying out the mouth, there are few things worse for your mouth and your breath than smoking cigarettes, cigars, or pipes.  Smokers must drink water constantly to overcome the effects of superheated air being constantly sucked into the mouth. 

We won't even talk about health side effects unrelated to halitosis. Components of cigarette smoke wreak a negative effect on soft dental tissues.  And if you are overcoming dental infections, smoking can prolong your recovery and even cause setbacks.    

Acidic foods also create the perfect environment for chronic halitosis.  Ever heard of coffee breath?  Coffee, colas, orange juice, and even some teas are very high in acid.  Drinking these beverages is like filling a petri dish with the perfect growing medium.

And take a minute to think about how some of these contributing factors compound one another:  The smoker who thinks he's rinsing his mouth out with a cup of coffee is just making his problem worse. 

Those foods are not the only other causes of chronic halitosis.  Many people with chronic sinus problems suffer from persistent breath problems.  The face contains eight sinus cavities throughout its bony structure, and any of these can fill up with infected mucus drainage. Each sinus cavity is connected to the nasal passages, and they, of course, lead straight to the back of your throat. 

Most sinus infections result from bacteria, but sometimes the offending germs are from candidia (a yeast).  This can drain into your throat, and an oral thrush infection produces serious bad breath. 

People who use steroid inhalers to treat asthma or emphysema are at a higher risk of developing oral thrush infections as well.  If you use one of them, it's important to rinse your mouth with water after each inhaled dose. 

Other medications do not cause thrush, but they do stymie your saliva production.  Antihistamines are big culprits for chronic halitosis. If you take medications regularly, ask your pharmacist if yours is on the list of 1,800 medications known to cause dry mouth.  Here are just a few:  Lipitor, Zoloft, Norvasc, Prilosec, Prevacid, Claritin, Actifed, Vistaril, and the list goes on. 

Sometimes medical conditions cause a person's mouth to dry out. They include diabetes or Sjogren's syndrome (an autoimmune disorder that tries out mucosal tissues).  Even a vitamin A deficiency is contributory to chronic halitosis.   

Stress is another factor in the production of bad breath.  People who feel stressed out often suffer from sour stomach, constipation, or intestinal spasms.  Pockets of air can rise up and be expelled from the mouth. 

No matter what else you do to fight bad breath, a major combatant in the battle against chronic halitosis is water, and lots of it!  It will lubricate your mouth, get your digestive juices -including saliva- flowing, and rinse food particles away.

Water helps with digestion, even as an aid in constipation, and it will help flush those smelly food oils out of your system. 

 

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