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Chronic and continuous bad breath is known as halitosis. Mouth washes and mouth fresheners do not easily resolve the problem. Halitosis originates from the tongue and gums as an odour released by the bacterial wastes that settle in the mouth, decayed food particles, poor oral hygiene and debris present in the mouth. A compound of sulfur is generated that emits the unpleasant smell. The primary cause of halitosis or bad breath is poor oral hygiene which is caused due to the retention of food particles in the mouth or as a result of gum disease. Patients with medical infection, kidney failure, diabetes and liver malfunction also experience chronic bad breath. Cancer patients undergoing radiation therapy are susceptible to dry mouth that causes bad breath. Other factors such as dieting, stress, aging, snoring and hormonal imbalances can also cause halitosis. Consumption of extremely spicy foods, garlic, onions, and caffeine are also associated to bad breath for up to 72 hours after their digestion. The odour of onions can be excreted through lungs long after it has been digested.


Bad breath is best controlled with good oral hygiene that comprises of brushing, flossing, cleaning the cheeks, tongue and roof of the mouth. Accumulated plaque and food particles should be removed by adopting proper cleaning procedures to eliminate halitosis. Chewing sugar-free gum also helps the situation.

The dentists role

Nevertheless, it is always imperative to visit the dentist regularly for dental checkups, which will help detect any kind of physical problems. The dentist also conducts a comprehensive cleaning program to remove excessive, hidden plaque and debris that may go unseen with normal hygiene practices at home. An appointment with the dentist also helps determine the source of bad breath and identify hygiene and treatment plans to combat them. If the origin of the bad breath is systemic or due to internal body systems then the dentist will direct the patient to the appropriate health care provider to treat it.

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Dr. Renju Anil graduated from Calicut University.

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