This is a common condition among people of all ages, also known as halitosis. It affects an estimated 25% of people globally. Bad breath negatively impacts on daily life activities like communication with other persons, self-esteem, self-confidence, social and intimate relationships like dating and marriage, employability, and career aspirations. It causes embarrassment, anxiety and inhibits social interaction. It also decreases the quality of life among afflicted individuals. The most common cause of bad breath is poor oral hygiene. This occurs as a result of the breakdown of food particles left in the mouth by bacteria, causing mouth odour and tooth decay. In addition, odour-causing bacteria and food particles can cause bad breath if dentures are not properly cleaned.

Causes of Bad Breath

  • Tobacco: Tobacco products can increase chances of gum disease which can cause bad breath
  • Dry mouth: Saliva keeps the mouth moist and cleans it naturally, but when the mouth is dry due to dehydration odour can result.
  • Poor dental hygiene: Poor oral hygiene after food consumption can lead to build-up of food particles (plaque) which can cause damage to the gums causing odour in the
  • Fasting: Fasting and low carbohydrate programmes can produce bad breath. This is due to the breakdown of fat into ketones
  • Medications: Certain drugs can reduce the flow of saliva increasing odour in the mouth e.g. chemotherapy, tranquillizers such as phenothiazine, diazepam.
  • Foreign body: This can cause bad breath especially in children if lodged in their nasal cavity
  • Diseases: Certain metabolic diseases in the body can cause bad breath e.g. liver diseases, gastrooestrophageal reflux diseases (GERD), aspiration pneumonia, ketoacidosis, chronic kidney failure and bowel obstruction.


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Treatment for Bad Breath (Halitosis)

  1. The best treatment for halitosis is good oral hygiene as it ensures that tooth cavities are healthy and risk of dental diseases is reduced. For the desired result try the following:
  • Brush your teeth at least twice a day and preferably after a meal.
  • A soft brush can be used to prevent damage to the gums.
  • Change toothbrush after every 2-3 months of use.
  • Ensure you get the right floss, a dentist can recommend a good one that includes anti-bacterial agent and anti-bacterial mouthwash. It helps to reduce the build-up of food particles and plaque between the teeth.
  • Use clean dentures, by washing it under clean running water to prevent bacteria from entering the mouth.
  • Always brush your tongue properly to reduce bacteria from food particles.
  • Avoid dry mouth by drinking plenty of water to improve movement of saliva.

Diet Triggers

Watch for foods that cause bad breath like:

  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Caffeine
  • Alcohol
  • Orange drink
  • Soda
  • Cookies
  • Chocolates
  • Sweets
  • Ice-cream
  • Dairy products e.g. cheese ,soy milk

Foods That Boost Good Breath

  • Fruits
  • Chew sugarless and minted gums
  • Green and black teas
  • High fibre foods e.g. oats, wheat

Other tips for preventing bad breath include;

  1. Stop smoking tobacco products as they can damage the teeth and cause odours.
  2. Drink lots of water as it keeps your mouth moist.
  3. Chewing gums (preferably sugarless) or sucking on candy containing xylitol stimulates the production of saliva, which helps wash away food particles and bacteria. Gums and mint containing xylitol are best
  4. See your dentist regularly at least twice a year. He or she will conduct an oral exam and professional teeth cleaning and will be able to detect and treat periodontal disease, dry mouth, or other problems that may be the cause of bad mouth odour.


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