Halitosis(Bad Breath) : Let your breath be that of fresh air.
Its girl’s night out and I’m out with the girls. It’s time to let loose, have some fun and possibly – wink, wink – snatch up some muscle. I am all dolled up in the raunchiest of clothes I can find and as I step out into the streets, the catcalls and whistles let me know it’s mission accomplished!
We arrive at the club and as per usual, the queue is just not for us. The bouncer gives us a nod and just lets us through. We find our usual spot empty and we rush to it before it is taken. We order our first round and share a hearty laugh. As I sip on my mojito, I get this gnawing feeling that there are eyes on me. I turn around and behold a creature cast down from the heavens! His eyebrows so thick! His lashes so full and long, his eyes glistering in this poorly lit club. And his smile, Oh his smile, can light up the darkest of alleyways.
As I sit there, gawking shamelessly at him, he walks up to me and smiles. My heart starts racing. I say a short thank-you prayer to Old Lady Fate for bringing me ‘The One’. He leans closer; my heart is in my throat! He leans even closer and my head grows faint. And then he says, “Hi, I’m Kwame.”
My whole world came crashing down! Like an astral projection, I saw my body hitting the couch. I was knocked out stone cold. I could not believe my eyes or better still, I should say, my nose! The stench was overpowering. I was distraught! My Prince Charming, My MR RIGHT (although I had never spoken to him *side eye*), had HALITOSIS.
What is Halitosis?
The sad truth is about one in every four people, have halitosis and more often than not, they don’t know it. Wondering what halitosis is? As you may have gleaned from my story, it is what we commonly term “BAD BREATH”. It is a foul or offensive odor emanating from the mouth. Also termed as fetor oris or fetor ex ore, it may be caused by a variety of factors, some of which include; periodontal disease (infections of the structures around the teeth), xerostomia (dry mouth resulting from reduced or absent saliva flow), bacterial or fungal coating of the tongue or dentures, systemic disorders like diabetes and upper respiratory infections, different types of food, use of tobacco products and more.
Types of Halitosis
Okay so now let’s get a tad technical. Halitosis is classified into mainly Delusional and Genuine halitosis but there is a form of halitosis, which is transient and is referred to as Temporary halitosis. This form occurs because of intake of certain foods such as garlic, onions, spices, tobacco and medications and may last for several hours. However, as I said, it is TEMPORARY! So don’t fret.
Delusional halitosis can be broken down into Pseudohalitosis and Halitophobia. In Pseudohalitosis, although obvious bad breath is not perceived by others, the person complains of its existence. This is seen in apparently healthy individuals. Halitophobia is an exaggerated fear of having mouth odour. It may occur after treatment of genuine halitosis or pseuodohalitosis, where a person strongly believes he or she still has halitosis.
In delusional halitosis, no physical or social evidence exists to suggest the presence of halitosis.
Genuine halitosis can either be physiologic (not due to illness) or pathologic (due to illness).
In Physiologic halitosis, the bad breath is due to putrefactive processes occurring in the oral cavity and originates mainly from the posterior region of the tongue. No specific disease nor pathologic condition that could cause halitosis is found. E.g. of such halitosis is morning breath odour, odour from tobacco smoking, and odour from taking certain medications such as nitrites and nitrates, dimethyl sulfoxide, phenothiazines, amphetamines, and cytotoxic agents.
Pathologic halitosis can be due to problems from inside the mouth (intra-oral) or outside the mouth (extra-oral).
Intra oral halitosis is usually due to poor oral hygiene, dental caries, periodontal diseases like gingivitis and periodontitis, xerostomia, dry socket, tongue coating, oral carcinoma and other oral infections. Tongue coatings consist of desquamated epithelial cells, food debris, bacteria and salivary proteins, which provide an ideal environment for the production of volatile sulphur compounds and other compounds that contribute to bad breath.
Extra-oral halitosis may occur as a result of chronic sinusitis, chronic tonsillitis, respiratory tract infections or malignancy, gastrointestinal diseases like GERD, pyloric stenosis or duodenal obstruction, peptic ulcer, and menstruation. Systemic diseases (like diabetes mellitus, tuberculosis or lung abscess, liver failure, kidney failure, and leukaemia) may also cause extra-oral halitosis.
How can I verify that I have bad breath?
Well, you can perform some self-assessments. Some of these include:
- Whole mouth malodour test: Cup your hands over your mouth and breathe through your nose to smell the odour emanating from your entire mouth.
- The Spoon test: Use a spoon to scrape material from the back region of your tongue. Judge by smelling the spoon after 5 seconds at a distance of about 5 cm.
- The Wrist lick test: Extend your tongue outwards and lick your wrist in a perpendicular fashion. Judge by smelling your wrist after 5 seconds at a distance of about 3 cm.
And finally, PREVENTION!
Now, if you do not have bad breath, kudos to you but I suggest you perform the following to maintain that condition:
- Regularly visiting your dentist
- Periodically cleaning your teeth by a dental professional ( averagely every 6 months)
- Brushing your teeth twice daily with appropriate brushing instruments and techniques, for a duration of 2-3 minutes
- Flossing after brushing daily, to remove food particles stuck in between the tooth surfaces
- Use of a tongue scraper to get rid of lurking odour causing bacteria on the tongue surface
- Drink plenty of fluids
- Limit intake of strong spices
- Chew sugar free gum when mouth feels dry
- Eat fresh fibrous vegetables such a carrots
Let your breath be that of fresh air. Enjoy the rest of your week.