Bad breath or halitosis is a common oral disease that affects many people worldwide. Often, bad breath results from poor oral-health habits and can signal other health conditions as well.
The symptoms of bad breath are fairly straightforward. Most patients exhibit persistent oral odor or an unpleasant taste in the mouth. Although bad breath is common, its effects can be serious, as halitosis is a form of oral disease that can accompany additional and more-severe health concerns. To make matters worse, individuals are not always aware that they suffer from bad breath, as odor-detecting cells in the nose acclimate to the constant barrage of bad smells from the mouth.
Bad breath odors can vary, depending on the oral source (e.g. tongue or gums) and any underlying medical conditions. Based on the oral source of the odor, additional complications and symptoms may accompany halitosis. For example, poor oral hygiene can lead to tooth decay and gum disease from accumulated debris, which forms a thick, whitish plaque that can cause bad breath and prolonged inflammation. If inflammation continues, it can lead to long-term swelling, bleeding, pus drainage, loose teeth, and extensive damage to tissue and bone in the mouth.
Contributing conditions such as respiratory tract infections, systemic illnesses like diabetes, and harmful habits like smoking or excessive alcohol consumption are associated with other features in addition to bad breath. For example, those who suffer from dry mouth caused by medication or inadequate water intake can also experience difficulty speaking, dry eyes, and issues with swallowing.
If you have bad breath, first review your oral-hygiene habits. Ensure that you are maintaining an effective routine of brushing your teeth, tongue, and gums with fluoride toothpaste after every meal or snack, using dental floss, and rinsing your mouth with an antibacterial mouthwash. Additional lifestyle changes are also helpful, such as quitting smoking, limiting your consumption of alcoholic beverages, and drinking plenty of water. See your dentist for regular cleanings and exams at least twice a year and to address any lingering effects of bad breath.