Do I Have Bad Breath? Part 1 – Causes of Bad Breath

Causes of Bad Breath

One topic close to everyone’s lips at some stage of their life will be bad breath. Bad breath, halitosis or oral malodour is a socially uncomfortable condition that can be embarrassing, and will not go away by sucking on mints or using a mouthwash. To address the concern is to treat the cause, not the symptoms.

We know the human mouth has a high proliferation of bacteria – up to 600 different species have been isolated, identified and studied in detail over many years by western science. The research into the cause of dental decay, gingivitis (gum disease), and periodontal disease (gum and bone disease within the mouth) has uncovered a myriad of bacteria and the effects they have in the mouth. The good news is a lot of research has been done on what makes breath smelly; the by-products of bacteria and yeasts, and the coating of the tongue is one of the main causes.  The bacteria, or groups of bacteria responsible for the malodour thrive in an environment where oxygen levels are low and where they are likely to remain undisturbed.

The top surface of the tongue, particularly the posterior (rear) section, is covered by hundreds of taste buds and tiny crypts or crevices that harbour the undisturbed bacteria which in turn feeds off saliva, food and dead cells with a minimum of oxygen. The waste products of these bacteria are called volatile sulphur compounds (VSC) and are responsible for strong, smelly breath. Most people are aware of an increase in breath smell upon wakening, as the bacteria have had the opportunity to flourish undisturbed for 8 or so hours with a minimum of saliva to wash the mouth. Interestingly, if a person has untreated gum disease, there is an increase of VSC’s found in the deeper gums pockets (over 5mm) as well, which accounts for a stronger breath for these people as well. Other factors, such as diet, smoking, denture wearing and general health have an effect on the coating.

One study indicated that in 87% of cases tested for bad breath, the cause originated in the mouth. Of this, a whopping 51% were because of a tongue coating, 17% gingivitis and 15% periodontitis and 17% a result of combinations between these causes.

If you are concerned by bad breath or if you would like any more information please contact Avenue Dental