Bad Breath

Halitosis (bad breath) is mostly caused by sulphur-producing bacteria that normally live on the surface of the tongue and in the throat. Sometimes, these bacteria start to break down proteins at a very high rate and odorous volatile sulphur compounds (VSC) are released from the back of the tongue and throat. Halitosis is not infectious. About 2.4% of the adult population suffers from bad breath.

Causes of halitosis

Apart from the sulphur-producing bacteria that colonise the back of the tongue, the other major causes of halitosis are:

  •  Dental factors – such as periodontitis (infection around the teeth) or poor oral hygiene
  •  Dry mouth – caused by medicines, alcohol, stress or a medical condition
  •  Smoking – which starves the mouth of oxygen.

Less common causes of halitosis include:

  •  Acid and bile reflux from the stomach
  •  Post-nasal discharge – for example, due to chronic sinusitis
  •  Kidney failure, various carcinomas, metabolic dysfunctions, and biochemical disorders, together account for only a very small percentage of halitosis suffers
  •  Foods - such as onions, garlic or cauliflower, which induce certain odours. However, these effects are only short-lived.

Symptoms of halitosis

The features of halitosis can include:

  •  A white coating on the tongue especially at the back of the tongue
  •  Dry mouth

  •  Build up around teeth

  •  Post-nasal drip, or mucous
  •  Morning bad breath and a burning tongue
  •  Thick saliva and a constant need to clear your throat
  •  Constant sour, bitter metallic taste.

Having halitosis can have a major impact on a person. Because of bad breath, other people may back away or turn their heads. This can cause a loss of confidence and self-esteem.