TIP Oral hygiene and lots of water help stave it off
T he problem of bad breath (halitosis) is usually caused when bacteria in the mouth break down food debris into sulphurous or other volatile compounds. It can also result from the decomposition of bits of food left in your mouth and between your teeth, inflammation or a discharge of pus.
“Someone with bad breath should drink plenty of water because dry mouth (xerostomia) can also be a cause,” says Erika Fink, president of the Berlin-based Federal Chamber of Pharmacists (BAK).
Older people and snorers are particularly at risk of suffering from a dry mouth. Stress, drinking too much alcohol or taking certain medications, such as anti—depressants, can also diminish saliva production.
Brushing and flossing the teeth helps but is not always enough to prevent bad breath. Food particles can remain in pockets between the teeth and gums, in interdental spaces or at the back of the tongue.
Use of mouthwash
Thorough oral hygiene, therefore, includes the use of mouthwashes, which supplement mechanical teeth cleaning but cannot take its place.
Antibacterial mouthwashes alleviate oral inflammations and can promote the healing of wounds, thus helping to combat bad breath.
Their ingredients include synthetic agents or plant extracts from sage or myrrh. Mouthwashes that contain chlorhexidine can discolour teeth, braces and dentures, so the teeth should be brushed and braces or dentures removed before these solutions are used.
“Even if the mouth rinses don't taste good, don't drink or eat immediately afterwards. This will allow the active ingredients to act longer,” Fink says.
If proper oral hygiene and drinking plenty of water does not get rid of bad breath, the affected person should have a medical examination.
Should the source of the problem lie outside the mouth or pharynx, the doctor will look for other possible causes.
These include stomach illnesses, diabetes and a diverticulum, or abnormal pouch, in the oesophagus, which can trap food particles.
Smokers often have bad breath due to sulphur-containing components in smoke, which are deposited in the bronchial tubes.