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Bad breath also known as halitosis is caused by anaerobic bacteria that live within our bodies. Over 80% of bad breath is caused by bacteria in the mouth that convert protein to volatile sulphur compounds which gives the characteristic odour. These bacteria reside on the tongue and in the gum crevices around the teeth.

Factors that Promote Bad Breath


  1. Periodontal (gum) disease – Bacteria and food debris collect in and around gum pockets and become a constant producer of sulphur gases. If you have gingivitis or periodontal disease you will need professional treatment.
  2. Dry Mouth – Dry mouth uses oxygen deprivation and increases the number of anaerobic bacteria. Dry mouth is a very complex issue and can be caused by factors such as alcohol, prescription medication, over-the-counter medication, dieting or infrequent eating, smoking, acidic drinks or caffeine containing drinks, chronic pain (temporomandibular joint pain), head and neck pain is also associated with dry mouth.
  3. Post nasal drip – Post nasal drip means you are making excess mucous that gathers in the sinus and nasal passages, back of throat, tongue and tonsil area. This mucous is an excellent food source high in protein. Anaerobic bacteria can easily metabolise nasal mucous to make smelly sulphur compounds. Post nasal drip is made worse by environment and allergies and is also heightened by dairy products that tend to thicken the mucous.
  4. Medications – Many medications have dry mouth as a side effect of usage. Typically they are antidepressants, high blood pressure medications, antihistamines and medications containing estrogen and/or progesterone.
  5. Certain foods – Dairy products can cause bad breath. For many people, the lactose protein found in dairy foods cannot be broken down because of lack of a special enzyme (lactase). This condition is known as lactose intolerance. The problem is that these bad breath bacteria can break down the lactose proteins which are full of sulphur to produce odour and bad tastes. Onions and garlic can also create bad breath because of a molecular basis they already contain the same odorous sulphur compounds produced by the bacteria.
  6. Smoking – Is a major cause of bad breath, gum disease and heart disease. When you smoke you are effectively starving the mouth of oxygen, thus promoting the overgrowth of anaerobic bacteria that creates the smelly sulphur products.
  7. Alcohol – Dries the mouth considerably, drastically increasing the number of anaerobic bacteria that cause bad breath.


Diagnosis and Treatment


At Align Dental we measure breath odour using an instrument called a Halimeter. The test involves blowing into a straw-like tube connected to the Halimeter and the machine detects the level of volatile sulphur compounds in the breath. The more volatile sulphur compounds present the worse the bad breath. Treatment for bad breath is often multifunctional and will often include:

  1. Proper dental hygiene to
    1. Remove much of the bacteria in the mouth so they cannot produce volatile sulphur compounds.
    2. Remove the layer of plaque, food debris and dead cells which protect bacteria from oxygen.
    3. Remove the leftover microscopic food particles which bacteria use to create odorous sulphur particles.
  2. Tongue cleaning – Many odour causing bacteria reside on the tongue the use of a tongue scraper to gently clean the tongue can greatly improve the breath.
  3. Saliva assessment – To assess the quality and quantity of saliva as dry mouth creates the perfect environment for odour causing bacteria.
  4. Periodontal (gum) assessment – A routine gum examination will detect enlarged periodontal pockets which harbour bacteria and food debris.
  5. Airway assessment – Often a referral to an ear, nose and throat specialist will be required to assess mouth breathing which causes dry mouth. Persistent post nasal drip also requires careful assessment.

At Align Dental we will guide you through a treatment programme specifically tailored for your particular problem. Bad breath can be eliminated. No longer do you or your loved ones have to fear embarrassment from foul mouth odour. Self confidence is essential to your success in business and personal life. 

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