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What is Bad Breath?
Acute bad breath is a very common problem caused by such things as oral dryness, stress, hunger, eating certain foods such as garlic and onions, smoking, and poor oral care. Morning breath is a typical example of transient bad breath. However, Chronic bad breath is a far more serious condition affecting one quarter of the population in different capacities, and usually ha s a bad impact on the individual’s capacity to maintain good personal and business relationship, leading to catastrophe.
Halitosis is caused by the presence of a huge colony of oral bacteria and invariably requires persistent treatment. Presently, persis tent halitosis is not clearly understood or even identified as a curable condition by most medical experts, so a proper and effective treatment is almost impossible to find. Most of the treatment available is mostly asymptotic and are limited to controllin g bad breath by mouth and breath fresheners. Though many breath clinics have sprouted like mushroom, all over the world, many of them are not really successful. However, a very small number of clinics use established methods of microbiological examination to determine the varieties of odorcausing bacteria. The specific bacteria are then controlled by patient specific treatments, thus giving patients relief from the ordeal.
Though the reasons for bad breath odor are not completely understood, most unpleas ant odors are known to occur due to food debris trapped in the mouth. It is really amazing to find as many as 400 different types of bacteria in an average mouth! Trouble can occur when several dozen of these are allowed to flourish in large proportions or are genetically mutated to reproduce in a large number. Many species of these bacteria are usually found on the back of the tongue, where they find protection and security from normal mouth activity. The rough edges of our tongue usually harbor millions o f these harmful bacteria, which create toxins by digesting debris, dead cells, and other residues. These toxins are harmful in creating a bad odor in the breath. The anaerobic respiration of these bacteria will accrue residual compounds containing sulfides and ammonia. These bad compounds often mix with the breath to form an aerosol of nausea and bad odor. Other causes of chronic bad breath may be periodontitis (gum disease), diabetes, kidney failure, sinusitis, tonsilloliths, gastroesophageal reflux disord er (GERD), and a wide variety of prescription drugs.
The causes of Bad Breath
The majority of bad breath problems begin in the mouth. Bad breath that is of mouth origin can be traced to a sulphur compound produced by bacteria. Dead and dying bacter ial cells release this sulphur compound, which gives the breath a bad odor.
Bacterial plaque, debris and food waste accumulate on the back of the tongue. The tongue’s surface is extremely rough and bacteria can reside easily in the cracks and crevices. L arge amounts of sulphur compounds can be produced in this area, making it a frequent site of origin for bad breath.
The tooth attracts bacteria containing plaque, debris and if not cleaned regularly and thoroughly, this can result in large accumulations of bacteria which result in bad breath. People who have Periodontitis disease often experience bad breath because of bacteria accumulating in areas that are not cleaned easily, such as deep fissures around teeth. Fortunately, treatment is very effective fo r people who have bad breath of mouth origin.
Other reasons for bad breath are Sinus or respiratory infections, Diabetes related acetone smell, Fishy odor in case of kidney disease, Liver problems, Digestive disorders, Dieting and fasting related foul odor, etc.
Diagnosing Bad Breath
We can not really make out that we have a bad mouth odor, due to process of habituation. However, people we usually associate with can really identify the bad breath coming out of our mouth. The degree of bad breath depe nds mainly on oral dryness and amount of residual toxins in the mouth.
ALSO READ: The Causes of Bacteria Imbalance in the Body
The simplest method to check whether you have bad breath or not, is to lick the back of your wrist and allow the saliva to dry for some time and smell the area.
Another easy way is t o lightly scrape the back of the tongue with an inverted spoon or a piece of dental floss, and to test for the smell of the dried residue. You may need to ask your spouse to smell your breath and give you a proper opinion. Of late highly reliable home test s are made available which test for the presence of polyamines and sulphur compounds on tongue swabs. You may need to test several times in a day to arrive at an average result. However, if bad breath is continuous and everlasting, and all other factors ha ve been ruled out, you will consider taking sophisticated tests using modern technology.
A new portable sulfide monitor called the Halimeter is being used widely to test for levels of sulphur emissions in the mouth air. However, it has drawbacks in clini cal and lab applications. For example, many common sulfides are not recorded as easily and can be read erroneously in test results. Certain foods such as garlic and onions produce sulphur in the breath for as long as 48 hours and can result in false readin gs. The Halimeter is also found to be very sensitive to alcoholic drinks; you may need to avoid drinking alcohol or using alcohol rich mouthwashes for at least 12 hours prior to being tested. This meter will loose its sensitivity over time and requires per iodic recalibration to remain accurate.
Modern research have given us portable gas chromatography machines such as the “OralChroma”, which is specifically designed to digitally measure molecular levels of the three major odor compounds in a sample of mou th air. It is extremely accurate in its results and produces visual conclusions in graph form via computer interface.
Microbiological testing of swab samples of teeth and tongue residue remains the most accurate method of determining the specific bacteri al causes of oral malodor. It is very authentic too.