Halitosis - Risk Factors for Bad Breath

A person with bad breath is rarely aware of his offense. He cannot detect his own mouth odor even when he exhales against his hand, or licks it to test the quality of the odor--both methods are unreliable. He usually only becomes aware that he has it when he notices (as in the example) that people are avoiding him or when someone tells him. All of us are more or less vulnerable at one time or another. Bad breath can come when you least expect it, and it tends to get worse and more frequent as you get older. The intensity of the odor is variable, but researchers usually record the aroma as mild, moderate, pungent, objectionable and very objectionable. I leave it to your imagination to select appropriate examples of this classification. 

Halitosis, the technical term for bad breath, or malodor or Fetor ex Oris, as dentists sometimes call it, can curse those which consume those foods or substances which often cause bad breath: garlic, raw onions, cabbage, horse radish, eggs, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, fish, red meat, peppers, cigarettes, alcohol and coffee, but bad breath can occur even if your diet does not include the above named foods, for the basic causes are always present in the human mouth: when bacteria in your mouth decompose food, evil smelling putrefaction products result. 

Medical risks for bad breath include bronchial and lung infections, chronic sinusitis, post-nasal drip, tonsillitis. The mucous discharge which comes during cold or flu can create bad breath. Also implicated are untreated nasal polyps, diabetes, syphilis, diseases of the stomach and lungs, liver, kidneys, and there is a type of halitosis which is caused by a gallbladder dysfunction. Altering the diet to reduce the amount of fat intake will often eliminate this type of “pungent” heavy odor. There is a fetid and “fishy” odor associated with chronic renal or kidney failure. Some medications can cause or exacerbate bad breath. Various carcinomas can cause malodor. You should consult your physician if bad breath becomes chronic and the simple treatments detailed in this report don’t work. However, these problems taken altogether affect a very small percentage of people. 

Stress or nervous tension is a major enhancer of bad breath. In fact, there seems to be a stress component to most bad breath. One major effect of stress is drying of the mouth, but stress also aggravates the fulsome odor in other subtle ways. If you have lived through a stressful or unpleasant experience you may have noticed that a case of bad breath also went along with the ordeal. One person developed bad breath during airplane trips. The halitosis promptly went away after a safe arrival. A woman developed bad breath when a man she was dating made advances. Having to give a speech or take an examination or endure some other stress inducing situation may also bring out a malady, so monitor your emotional state for cues. 

Some women have a distinctive and mousy odor associated with the onset of menstruation. This particularly common in the women who suffer from dysmenorrhea or painful menstruation. The cause is thought to be caused by the rise in estrogen which triggers sloughing of the body’s lining tissues, including those of the mouth. More sloughed tissue means more food for bacteria. Usually the woman is unaware of the odor, but is readily apparent to her spouse. 

Be aware of the fact that some people don’t have bad breath at all, but merely think they do. That is, they imagine that their oral aroma is more intense and offensive than it really is. Such cases of “imaginary” bad breath are sometimes associated with psychological problems. These sufferers may withdraw from society, develop anti-social behavior, and may even contemplate suicide. 

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Stuart A. Greene, DDS-FAGD
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