HG would have loved to join the debating club of his secondary school but for one problem he feels shy to admit. He finds his breath offensive and fears that others feel the same about him. Luck shone on him when a non-governmental organization visited his school to provide free dental evaluation. He was counseled on ways to manage his bad breath.
Halitosis is one of the most common reasons why people visit the dental clinic. It affects 1 in every 4 people. It is a condition that can cause embarrassment and significant anxiety. It therefore can reduce one’s overall performance. Fortunately, in most cases, the treatment is simple.
Common causes of halitosis include
Poor oral hygiene: This is the commonest cause of bad breath. It follows that if one’s mouth is not clean, if there are remnants of food particles in the mouth, the bacteria there will break these foods down. The result is unpleasant odour from the mouth. .
The treatment here is simply to have a thorough cleaning by the dentist through a procedure called scaling and polishing. The dentist will also give some pointers on how to keep the mouth clean. One of them is brushing the teeth twice daily.
Ingestion of highly spicy foods: Some foods have strong aromas which also tend to linger. Common examples are onions and garlic. When we have taken foods that contain a lot of such spices, it helps to brush one’s teeth or use a mouth wash or breath mints or sprays.
Dental infections: Some dental conditions such as dental caries and gum disease also cause bad breath and can only be treated when the problems have been corrected by the dentist.
Wearing of dental appliances: Dentures in the mouth and other dental appliances such as braces will cause more accumulation of plaque and food particles. In this case the individual is expected to be more thorough in their tooth brushing.
Smoking: People who smoke, as well as those that chew tobacco products, also tend to have mouth odour. It is important to note that smoking increases the risk of gum disease which is in turn a common cause of halitosis.
Common cold/sinusitis/tonsillitis: Some people who have common cold or inflamed tonsils may also have halitosis which resolves as these conditions improve.
Dry mouth: This can be caused by taking of certain medications; or as seen in people on prolonged fasts. One of the solutions here is to make sure one is well hydrated.
There are some other uncommon causes of halitosis, which are not of oral origin. The dentist is best placed to determine that one’s halitosis is not of oral origin. He would refer the individual appropriately to a medical doctor who would provide the right care.
Dr ‘Emeka Nwachukwu is a Fellow of the National Postgraduate Medical College of Nigeria and an Associate Fellow of the West African College of Surgeons. He is a Consultant Dental Surgeon with specialization in Restorative Dentistry. He currently provides general and specialist dental services at Skky Dental Services, Ikoyi. He is passionate about providing excellent dental services in a compassionate and pain free manner. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org