Dr. M.J. Bazos, MD Patient Handout


About Your Diagnosis

Halitosis is the medical term for bad breath. More than 25 million Americans are affected with foul- or unpleasant-smelling breath. A number of factors and conditions cause bad breath. The most common cause of halitosis is the breakdown of food in the mouth by the bacteria that are always present there. Certain foods may make this condition worse. There are medical conditions that can cause bad breath. These include infected teeth, gums, or oral mucosa, oral cancers, the common cold, lung and sinus infections, postnasal drip, tonsillitis, untreated nasal polyps, diabetes, syphilis, and other diseases of the stomach, lungs, liver, and kidneys. Medications may also be a cause of halitosis. However, all of these medical problems taken together affect a very small percentage of individuals with halitosis. Stress or nervous tension makes the bad breath worse. One of the major effects of stress is drying of the mouth. Saliva is the mouth’s natural mouthwash; it has antibiotic elements in it that reduce the numbers of bacteria in the mouth.

Living With Your Diagnosis
An individual with bad breath is rarely aware of it. You generally cannot detect your own mouth odor even when you exhale into your hand, or lick it to smell the odor. You usually only become aware that you have halitosis when you notice that individuals are avoiding you or when someone tells you. All of us are more or less susceptible at one time or another to halitosis. 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.

The key to treatment is good oral hygiene. Daily brushing and flossing are essential. Using an overthe- counter mouthwash or a 50/50 mixture of hydrogen peroxide and water will help remove food particles and help neutralize odors. Regular dental checkups are a must to prevent, identify, and treat potential problems. Avoiding aggravating foods and tobacco can also help. If a medical condition or infection is the cause, proper treatment of the underlying condition is appropriate. Taking a vitamin C supplement may be of benefit, particularly in smokers. A vitamin C deficiency may make halitosis worse.

The DOs
• Brush with a baking soda toothpaste, floss between the teeth, and clean the tongue after each meal.
• Make sure your mouth is moist by drinking adequate water. Hold water in the mouth for as long as possible, swishing it vigorously to remove food particles.
• Increase saliva production by chewing sugarless gum or sugarless candy mints.
• Rinse mouth with 50/50 mixture of hydrogen peroxide and warm water for 1 minute.
• Snack on carrots, celery, or other vegetables to keep plaque from forming.
• Use an oral irrigation device to clean the teeth.

The DON’Ts
• Avoid foods and beverages that can cause bad breath, such as garlic, raw onions, cabbage, horseradish, eggs, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, fish, red meat, peppers, alcohol, and coffee.
• Avoid cigarettes and tobacco products.

When to Call Your Doctor
• You should consult your physician or dentist if bad breath becomes chronic and the simple treatments do not work.