Bad breath is one of the most common symptoms in dentistry, even though; it is not always caused by problems of the oral cavity. It is an embarrassing condition and has often led to break up of couples, as they are unable to be near each other or have intimate relationship. As a doctor, I am very sympathetic towards the issue and often don’t ask patients too many questions, just diagnose the cause. After that, I usually offer a general solution which is almost like a cure-all method.
The common causes of halitosis are:
1. Gingivitis or inflammation / infection of the gums. The smell is putrid as if coming from rotten flesh. The infection settles deep within the gums and forms pus which in turn smells. The breath carries it into the surrounding atmosphere. Dentists handle this with antibiotics, gum treatment, various types of mouthwash and vitamins and minerals.
2. Candida Albicans (a fungus) growth or chronic infection of the tonsils.
3. Plaque formation at the base of the teeth. Here the plaque irritates the gums and infection finds easy access to the roots of the teeth and gums. The solution is to have a good dental hygiene and regular visits to the dentist.
4. Gut fermentation and putrefaction. Due to excess yeast growth in the abdomen, there is increased fermentation and so many gases mixed with alcohol vapours are released from the stomach. Diabetics often have this type of breath. It is sweet-smelling but strong. Putrefaction is a process of bacterial disintegration of proteins. The smell produced by the foul gases is often like rotten egg. Consumption of excess meats, sausages, rancid foods, rotting fish or poultry etc. can increase putrefaction.
5. Indigestion and poor digestion leading to stagnation of food in the stomach. The smell may be that of the partially digested food that has been consumed.
6. Certain foods have strong vapours which are absorbed by the lining of the mouth. One therefore smells of what one has consumed. Onions, garlic, fenugreek, tuna paste, fish dishes, eggs, certain smelly fruits like jackfruit or durian, Vitamin B6, strong mint, strong coffee etc. leave smell in the oral cavity.
7. Smoking or chewing tobacco leaves a strong smell in the oral cavity as the nicotine gets absorbed by its lining.
8. Chronic Constipation, The toxins are not released from the body so the entire body and the breath smell. Get rid of the constipation by drinking more water, eating prunes or figs or spinach or psyllium husks mixed with water etc.
9. Chronic Sinus problems, Here the congested mucous can putrefy and release the smell.
10. Chronic lung diseases like bronchiectasis, when the pockets in the bronchial tubes accumulate a lot of mucous. There is often a constant infection there. The breath released, has the smell of rotting mucous.
11. Chronic gastritis, Here the inflammation of the lining of the stomach is caused by various factors. This often leads to stomach ulcers. These ulcers are frequently caused by bacteria called Helicobacter. The breath becomes foul specially after burping.
12. Fasting or eating sparingly, Empty stomach releases a lot of foul gas. During the Muslim fast of Ramadan, it is very noticeable amongst the people.
My approach is, that when you have a chronic disease, treat the “diseased “and not the “disease”. In order to boost the body’s immune system and to eliminate some of the aggravating factors, you have to follow these general instructions:
2. Avoid citric fruits, pineapple, vinegar , pickles, white wine , beer, cheeses, mushrooms, yeast bread, yeast spreads, hot chillies, chocolate, cakes, sweets, fermented foods, canned products, red meat, boiled eggs, sausages or bacon, cured meats, smoked fish, raw onions or garlic, frozen or not very fresh fish, shellfish , rotten eggs ( Chinese recipe), anchovies, meat or fish spreads and others.
3. Eat fresh foods, green salad, non-acid fruits, yoghurt and mostly vegetarian food with just chicken or turkey or veal included. Drink carrot juice, apple juice, vegetable juices, mint tea, chamomile tea, honey, liquorice tea, and 2 litres of water a day.
4. Eat slowly, masticating the food well. Eat regularly and try not to skip meals.
5. Rinse you mouth and gargle with salt water after every meal.
6. Take a generous pinch of table salt and mix with some virgin olive oil. Wash your hand. Use the index finger to massage your gums from outside and inside for 30 seconds or so and then rinse with warm water. Then take a quarter glass of warm water, add 5-8 or one third teaspoonful of Hydrogen Peroxide, then rinse and gargle for a minute. You must do this before going to bed. Nothing should be eaten or drunk after that except for water. This will properly infect the oral cavity and the places where a bacterium is likely to breed.
7. Suck cloves or liquorice pastilles, with very low sugar, after meals. This helps to disinfect the mouth.
8. Use Baking Soda Toothpaste if possible. Sometimes tooth powders are better as they don’t have chemicals or sugar.
9. Do the following above for at least 3 months.