Will Halitosis Spoil Your Valentine’s Day?
Love it or loathe it, February 14 is St Valentine’s Day. Some of us would consider this to be a purely commercial venture, designed to fill the retail void between Christmas and Easter. The Romantics amongst us might disagree, and defend the day as one worth celebrating and spending somewhere special with their significant other. It’s a day when red roses, sparkling beverages, chocolate, jewellery and restaurant dinners abound.
It’s therefore a day that halitosis, or bad breath, is potentially a significant problem- both for the person with halitosis and their romantic interest. If you are one or the other, read on: the information we have on this page may help you to get halitosis out of your life for good! (Although we’re not necessarily promising results by the end of this week!)
What is Halitosis
Halitosis, most commonly called bad breath, is an unpleasant odour whose source is the mouth or breath. Unlike ‘morning breath’, halitosis is an all-day condition that can be a source of embarrassment and anxiety. The word itself is derived from the latin ‘halitus’ meaning ‘breath’ and ‘-osis’ dervied from a Greek work meaning ‘disease’.
It is widely agreed that a physician named Joseph William Howe first used the term ‘halitosis’ in a book he published in 1874 with the lengthy but descriptive title: “The breath, and the diseases which give it a fetid odor : with directions for treatment”
You can read the book here online: https://archive.org/details/breathdiseaseswh00howe
What Causes Bad Breath
Bad breath is mainly caused by the gases released by the bacteria that live in the mouth. These tiny organisms are not just found on the teeth: they live on and under the gums (especially in the pockets in the gums caused by gum disease), within the crevices of the tongue and roof of the mouth, the back of the throat and will even try to cling to the smooth inner surface of the cheeks. Artificial devices like dentures will also attract and hoard bacteria.
To stop halitosis, you’ll need to remove as many of these bugs as possible. If the bacteria are living in pockets under your gums, you’ll definitely need some help from your dental team to get rid of them. Your brushing will need to be meticulous, your flossing thorough and daily, and you’ll need to clean your tongue as well. If you’re not sure how, ask your dentist or hygienist- it’s not difficult nor as gross as you think! If you wear dentures, be sure to clean them thoroughly and take them out at night to avoid a build up of bacteria.
You’ll also need to look at the types of foods you are consuming. Some foods feed the bacteria- so be sure to eat this type of food (sugary, sticky, starchy foods) only on an occasional basis. Other foods are themselves somewhat malodorous (dental jargon meaning ‘stinky’), so it can be helpful to avoid foods like onions and garlic as much as possible.
Being well hydrated means that your body will be able to make plenty of saliva, which has an important role in neutralising the acids that bacteria produce and flushing the tissues to keep them cleaner. So be sure to drink plenty of water all day long, and reduce your consumption of beverages that can leave you dehydrated, like coffee and alcohol.
Some forms of dry mouth are caused by the medications you are taking, certain medical conditions or even mouth breathing, especially at night.
Tobacco products are notorious for making the breath stinky, and smoking definitely dehydrates your mouth, making smoking a habit that is twice as likely to cause bad breath. Please stop smoking!
Some diseases such as diabetes, liver and kidney disorders and some forms of cancer can cause malodour. Infections in your nose, throat, sinus or lungs can also be the cause.
How Your Dental Team Can Help You Combat Halitosis
If your efforts at cleaning your mouth, staying well-hydrated and avoiding the above-mentioned foods, beverages and products has failed to make your breath smell sweeter, then a visit to your dentist is usually the best next step. Your dentist will take a complete health history and will examine your mouth, teeth, gums and top part of your throat. If bacteria is thought to be the causative factor, your dental team will do a professional cleaning to remove the build up, and advise you about how to keep the bacteria in check.
If your dentist is able to pronounce your mouth, teeth and gums healthy they will refer you to your medical team for more investigations.
Wishing you a happy, halitosis-free Valentines Day!