Question
I have found it extremely difficult to deal with a colleague at work who seems to suffer from an offensive breath. I initially thought that it was possibly just that they forgot to brush their teeth or had morning breath – but no, it got worse. It’s so pungent, yet she seems oblivious of the fact. All the fellow employees chat about it and make snide remarks regularly and offer chewing gum regularly.

It really smells rotten and I sometimes wonder if she doesn’t have a tooth abscess. I am aware that you can get offensive breath from not eating anything. Doc, is this curable and what could be the cause ?

Answer
Your concern for your colleague is warranted as this could have a big impact on her social and work life. It sounds by what you describe that she has classic HALITOSIS . It is the third most frequent reason for seeking dental aid, following tooth decay and periodontal disease. This is a foul smelling breath – prominent on exhalation and mostly offensive to others. Bad breath (halitosis) can be caused by a variety of things including diet, medication, poor oral hygiene, and diseases or conditions such as diabetes, GERD( reflux disease) , lactose intolerance, gum disease, and more. Treatment for bad breath depends on the cause.
Bad breath usually originates in the mouth. The intensity of bad breath might differ during the day. Certain foods can exarcebate the problem – many foodstuffs are well known with pungent odours like garlic, onions, fish, meat and cheese. Some common symptoms of bad breath include: bad smell, bad taste, dry mouth, and a sometimes coating on the tongue. Lifestyle issues that contribute to the condition are obesity, smoking and alcohol consumption.
Morning breath occurs when the oral cavity is exposed to less oxygen and is inactive during the night, the smell is usually worse upon awakening. Often, offensive breath is transient and self limiting – most cases respond to brushing one’s tongue and teeth, flossing and rinsing with specialized mouthwash. Persistent bad breath affects up to 25% of the population in varying degrees.

What can I do about bad breath?

Halitosis – Hit it Hard
1. Gently cleaning the tongue surface
2. Eating a healthy breakfast
3. Chewing gum
4. Gargling
5. Maintaining proper oral hygiene – flossing and tongue brushing
6. Probiotic treatments

When should I consult a physician for halitosis ?

If you have a persistent dry mouth with lesions or sores you should see a doctor for evaluation. Pain during chewing or swallowing should also be investigated. On self inspection if white spots are visualized on the tonsils along with fever, you might need urgent intervention. People that develop bad breath after starting on new medication recently as well as follow up complications of dental surgery should be monitored. Remember that halitosis in babies or young children can point to infection like tonsillitis and sinusitis.

Natural ways to combat bad breath :

  • Parsley is renowned to help as a breath fresheners containing chlorophyll, a green plant compound that kills bacteria that cause odor. Nibble on a sprig or chew some leaves after eating foods that may cause sour breath.
  • Tea tree oil on your toothbrush along with your toothpaste or put some in your un-waxed dental floss container to coat all the dental floss.
  • Create a mouthwash from equal parts of extracts of sage, calendula, and myrrh and gargle four times daily with the mixture. Keep the mouthwash in a tightly sealed jar.
  • Chewing unripe guava or guava leaves is an excellent tonic for the teeth and gums. Guava is rich in tannic, malic, oxalic, and phosphoric acids as well as calcium, oxalate, and manganese.
  • Cardamon seeds or fenugreek seeds can both help sweeten your breath. Both may either be chewed or made into teas.
  • Avocado is another effective remedy for bad breath. It helps eliminate intestinal putrefaction which can lead to bad breath.

Obsession with bad breath:
Halitophobia (delusion halitosis) may severely affect the lives of some 0.5–1.0% of the adult population. Occurs in up to 25% of the patients seeking professional advice on bad breath. These patients are sure that they have bad breath, although many have not asked anyone for an objective opinion.

Dealing with Halitosis (bad breath)

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