What causes bad breath?

Monday February 11 2019

 

By Dr Vincent Karuhanga

I have very bad breath in the morning. What can I do to stop this embarrassment?
David

Dear David,
Most people have some degree of bad breath in the morning. To test this, lick the back of your hand, let the saliva dry and then smell the area. Many fellow humans will fear to alert one with bad breath given the fear to embarrass the victim.
Humans generally produce up to 1.5 litres of saliva in a day to clean the tongue and in between the teeth of excess bacteria and debris hence keeping the mouth smelling fresh. While we sleep, the amount of saliva drops to nearly zero, drying out the mouth hence leading to loss of the saliva’s rinsing effect. The drying out then allows the odour-producing bacteria to overgrow and cause a breath odour.

People who snore, sleep with the mouth open, are on drugs that dry the mouth, women in menopause, allergies, (leads to sinusitis and mucus that drips down the back of the throat), throat infection, acid reflux from the stomach, chronic cough, and smoking, may more commonly get a morning breath odour.
Poor oral hygiene (without brushing and flossing before sleep), carious teeth and gum disease, can also contribute to breath odour in the morning.

Unfortunately, when one has breath odour, the brain switches off allowing it to detect other important smells for survival. This then means one may never be aware of the breath odour unless alerted. Then, it may be useful for each one of us to lick the back of his/her hand, let the saliva dry and then smell the area to find out.
To stem breath odour, one requires brushing the teeth and tongue and flossing before sleep, having dental checkups, treating allergies, taking lots of water and avoiding taking alcohol and smoking.

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