The Health Advocate

by Hannah Whittenly, The Health Advocate

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bad breath
Halitosis or bad breath is generally more embarrassing than anything else. In most cases, correcting the problem is simply a matter of avoiding certain foods, like garlic or some spices, and using a mouthwash that can kill the bacteria that cause bad breath. Chronic bad breath, however, can indicate a more serious problem, such as the following.

Poor dental hygiene

Failure to properly brush and floss one’s teeth quickly causes bacteria in the mouth to accumulate. They form a sticky film called plaque that can eventually cause gum disease. The tongue can also trap odor-causing bacteria, so people should brush their tongues as well as their teeth. Patients who wear dentures also need to clean them; while the food particles and bacteria won’t harm the dentures, they will irritate and inflame the patient’s gums.


Some medications can cause a condition called “dry mouth” in which the saliva glands produce an abnormally low amount of saliva. That lack of saliva increases the amount of debris that gets trapped in the mouth, and it also causes bad breath. So-called “morning breath” is caused by reduced saliva production during sleep, and it is exacerbated if the patient sleeps with their mouth open.


Infections in the mouth can also cause chronic bad breath. Causes of such infections include sores, tooth decay, gum disease, or surgical procedures like tooth extraction or root canal. In these cases, it is essential that you visit a dentist to have the infection treated. Infections in the gums and mouth can spread to the rest of the body, permanently damage the roots of your teeth, and cause major health complications if left untreated.


Some foods, like garlic or fish, are notorious for causing bad breath, at least temporarily. Sugary foods cause bad breath because bacteria love sugar, and a high population of bacteria causes bad breath. Bacteria can cause other problems like tooth decay or gum disease, and bad breath is often a symptom of both conditions. Some other types of carbohydrates, like fibers, ferment within the digestive tract, and the resulting gas can cause bad breath. Coffee causes dry mouth and thus causes halitosis.
On the other hand, some foods can fight halitosis. Leafy green vegetables, like spinach and parsley, contain chlorophyll, which is an antioxidant with deodorizing properties. Magnesium and zinc neutralize the sulfur in foods like onions. Foods containing magnesium and zinc include kidney beans, pumpkin seeds, and spinach.
A dentist can treat chronic bad breath and advise the patient on how to prevent it. In some cases, the patient may need nothing more than a standard cleaning " which everybody should get twice a year in any case. In other cases, the patient may need more extensive treatment like a filling or root canal.

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