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What Is Halitosis? Occasional Bad Breath Or A Chronic Problem?

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We've all been there: You've eaten some garlic prawns or you have a dry mouth, and you realise that your breath isn't as fresh as it should be. But there's a big difference between the occasional bad breath that everyone experiences and the misfortune of having chronic bad breath. Equipping purses and lunchboxes with mouthwash doesn't easily resolve bad breath, also known as halitosis, especially if this is a chronic problem. So, what is halitosis and how can you and your family deal with it? Here are a few tips.

What Causes Halitosis?

Halitosis has a range of causes, some of which are pretty serious. Here are some of the most common offenders:

Foods: Foods such as garlic, onion and other strong-smelling meal ingredients can leave particles behind in your mouth and on your tongue. These are digested and enter the bloodstream, with the odours being expelled via the lungs, resulting in an unpleasant post-lunch odour. Luckily, this resolves over some hours and is not a chronic cause of halitosis, unless you continually eat these foods.

Dry mouth: Some medications, smoking and mouth breathing can contribute to having a dry mouth. This lack of saliva means bacteria and food debris isn't being rinsed out of the mouth as well as it should, and this can lead to bad breath. Occasional dry mouth is one thing, but your bad breath could become chronic as a side effect of these factors.

Dental problems: According to the Australian Dental Association South Australia Branch, halitosis is often the result of unhealthy gums and teeth and poor oral hygiene. Dental issues can encourage bacteria to hide in cavities or pockets of gum tissue around the teeth making it more likely that you will have bad breath. Short-term breath freshening methods might mask the problem, but the smell can remain when the core issues go unchecked.

Medical issues: Some viruses and illnesses, particularly those that affect the sinuses, nasal passages and throat, can result in halitosis. Children with offensive breath might have a cold or sinus infection. Halitosis, can result from some diseases, for example the Australian Government Department of Health Healthdirect Service explains that bad breath can also be a sign of some kidney diseases, so be sure to seek advice from your medical or dental professional if you have ongoing bad breath.

How to Cope With Halitosis

Just remember: If it's a short-term problem, take comfort in employing a short-term solution. If your bad breath is the result of food particles or dry mouth, then stimulate saliva production to help wash away bacteria and freshen breath. Offer your kids some sugar-free chewing gum, or rinse with a mouthwash such as Colgate Total® Advanced Pro-Shield ™ , which helps wash away the food and bacteria contributing to bad breath.

If your bad breath is the result of a chronic issue such as tooth decay or an illness, you'll need to see a healthcare professional because chewing gum and mouthwash will only mask the problem for a little while. If you have a dental problem, make an appointment with your dentist. If you think the problem may be from another cause, you'll need to see your family doctor.

Now that you know the answer to the question, "What is halitosis?" you will have some idea on how to approach the problem. Treating the issue at the source means fresher breath wherever you are during the day.

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.