One thing that can rapidly stop an interesting conversation or dampen any romantic moment is bad breath. Even great movie stars have to worry about it. Clark Gable was notorious for having bad breath, and it was something that his co-star, Vivien Leigh, complained bitterly about during the making of Gone with the Wind.

Origins of bad breath and halitosis

No one knows exactly how many people suffer from bad breath. Recent research estimates around 20%. We do, however, know that 90% of bad breath originates in the mouth and rarely does it come directly from the stomach.

Common intra-oral sources of bad breath

The mouth has many potential sources of malodour. Faulty restorations are a common cause often leading to an associated foul taste. Old leaking fillings, poor-fitting crowns and food impaction sites are a breeding ground for bacteria that cause bad breath.

The most frequently overlooked source is the back of the tongue. This posterior area of the mouth is frequently neglected during dental hygiene routines at home.

The bacteria found between the teeth are also very likely to cause bad breath. People who neglect to floss and brush correctly and develop interdental plaque are more likely to develop gum disease, making bad breath a possible sign of gingivitis or periodontal disease.

Dry mouth, a condition in which the salivary glands don't produce enough saliva to keep your mouth wet, can be another cause of bad breath or halitosis. Dry mouth can be due to the side effects of some medications, ageing issues, or as a result of radiation therapy for cancer. 

Other sources of bad breath

Many unrelated conditions such as lung infections, metabolic dysfunctions and biochemical disorders can result in bad breath, but these account for only a small fraction of cases. Bad breath is also considered a diagnostic indication for diabetes.

Strong odours from foods such as garlic, onions and alcohol are external sources of odour. Some of these are retained in the mouth, and others carried in the bloodstream. These are then slowly released through the skin via perspiration, or via the breath. 

Treating bad breath or halitosis

In most cases,  you can effectively prevent bad breath with proper dental treatment, effective oral hygiene and tongue cleaning.

Although dental floss is a much-disliked part of hygiene, its proper use can significantly decrease bad breath and the occurrence of gum disease. Together with deep tongue cleaning, this should form an integral part of daily oral hygiene, leading to a fresher healthier breath.