Mouth Odour (bad breath) in Cameroon is a common problem that can cause significant psychological distress. There are a number of potential causes and treatments available.
Anyone can suffer from bad breath. It is estimated that 1 in 4 people have bad breath on a regular basis.
Halitosis is the third most common reason that people seek dental care, after tooth decay and gum disease.
Potential causes of bad breath include:
- Tobacco: Tobacco products cause their own types of mouth odor. Additionally, they increase the chances of gum disease which can also cause bad breath.
- Food: The breakdown of food particles stuck in the teeth can cause odors. Some foods such as onions and garlic can also cause bad breath. After they are digested, their breakdown products are carried in the blood to the lungs where they can affect the breath.
- Dry mouth: Saliva naturally cleans the mouth. If the mouth is naturally dry or dry due to a specific disease, such as xerostomia, odors can build up.
- Dental hygiene: Brushing and flossing ensure the removal of small particles of food that can build up and slowly break down, producing odor. A film of bacteria called plaque builds up if brushing is not regular. This plaque can irritate the gums and cause inflammation between the teeth and gums called periodontitis. Dentures that are not cleaned regularly or properly can also harbor bacteria that cause halitosis.
- Crash diets: Fasting and low-carbohydrate eating programs can produce halitosis. This is due to the breakdown of fats producing chemicals called ketones. These ketones have a strong aroma.
- Drugs: Certain medications can reduce saliva and, therefore, increase odors. Other drugs can produce odors as they breakdown and release chemicals in the breath. Examples include nitrates used to treat angina, some chemotherapy chemicals, and some tranquilizers, such as phenothiazines. Individuals who take vitamin supplements in large doses can also be prone to bad breath.
- Mouth, nose, and throat conditions: Sometimes, small, bacteria-covered stones can form on the tonsils at the back of the throat and produce odor. Also, infections or inflammation in the nose, throat, or sinuses can cause halitosis.
- Foreign body: Bad breath can be caused if they have a foreign body lodged in their nasal cavity, especially in children.
- Diseases: Some cancers, liver failure, and other metabolic diseases can cause halitosis, due to the specific mixes of chemicals that they produce. Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) can cause bad breath due to the regular reflux of stomach acids.
Rarer causes of bad breath
As mentioned earlier, the most common reason for bad breath is oral hygiene, but other situations can also be to blame.
Rarer causes of bad breath include:
- Ketoacidosis: When the insulin levels of a person with diabetes are very low, their bodies can no longer use sugar and begin to use fat stores instead. When fat is broken down, ketones are produced and build up. Ketones can be poisonous when found in large numbers and produce a distinctive and unpleasant breath odor. Ketoacidosis is a serious and potentially life-threatening condition.
- Bowel obstruction: Breath can smell like feces if there has been a prolonged period of vomiting, especially if a bowel obstruction is present.
- Bronchiectasis: This is a long-term condition in which airways become wider than normal, allowing for a build-up of mucus that leads to bad breath.
- Aspiration pneumonia: A swelling or infection in the lungs or airways due to inhaling vomit, saliva, food, or liquids.
The specific odor of breath can vary depending on the cause of the problem. It is best to ask a close friend or relative to gauge your mouth odor, as it can be difficult to assess it yourself.
If no one is available, one way of checking the odor is to lick your wrist, leave it to dry, and then smell it. A bad smell on this area of the wrist is likely to suggest that you have halitosis.
Some individuals are concerned about their breath even though they may have little or no mouth odor. This condition is called halitophobia and can lead to obsessive mouth-cleansing behavior.
Lifestyle and home remedies
To reduce or prevent bad breath:
- Brush your teeth after you eat. Keep a toothbrush at work to use after eating. Brush using a fluoride-containing toothpaste at least twice a day, especially after meals. Toothpaste with antibacterial properties has been shown to reduce bad breath odors.
- Floss at least once a day. Proper flossing removes food particles and plaque from between your teeth, helping to control bad breath.
- Brush your tongue. Your tongue harbors bacteria, so carefully brushing it may reduce odors. People who have a coated tongue from a significant overgrowth of bacteria (from smoking or dry mouth, for example) may benefit from using a tongue scraper. Or use a toothbrush that has a built-in tongue cleaner.
- Clean dentures or dental appliances. If you wear a bridge or a denture, clean it thoroughly at least once a day or as directed by your dentist. If you have a dental retainer or mouth guard, clean it each time before you put it in your mouth. Your dentist can recommend the best cleaning product.
- Avoid dry mouth. To keep your mouth moist, avoid tobacco and drink plenty of water — not coffee, soft drinks or alcohol, which can lead to a drier mouth. Chew gum or suck on candy (preferably sugarless) to stimulate saliva. For chronic dry mouth, your dentist or physician may prescribe an artificial saliva preparation or an oral medication that stimulates the flow of saliva.
- Adjust your diet. Avoid foods such as onions and garlic that can cause bad breath. Eating a lot of sugary foods is also linked with bad breath.
- Regularly get a new toothbrush. Change your toothbrush when it becomes frayed, about every three to four months, and choose a soft-bristled toothbrush.
- Schedule regular dental checkups. See your dentist on a regular basis — generally twice a year — to have your teeth or dentures examined and cleaned.