Bad breath (Halitosis)

Often a taboo – but not with us

Halitosis is the medical term for mouth odour and bad breath. It primarily arises from the bacterial decomposition of proteins (lipoproteins, polypeptides, proteoglycans, etc.) and fats (various lipids). What is interesting here is that these proteins can not only come from the food, but also from our own body, e.g. blood components, dead or shed skin cells, and tooth components Around 6 % of the population suffer from chronic halitosis, with seniors more often affected than juniors. The main place of origin is the oral cavity (periodontitis), followed by the gastrointestinal tract or ENT area in rarer cases.

Bad breath is caused by the decomposition products (mainly sulfur compounds, butyric acid and amines, etc.) of anaerobic bacteria, which means bacteria that do not need or like oxygen. Their favorite habitats are therefore all the areas where no oxygen can reach. For this reason, one of the most common places for the development of halitosis is the tongue with its furry surface, as well as periodontal pockets in manifest periodontitis.

Chronic use of specific medications, such as chlorohexetidine digluconate rinsing solution, may also result in the development of a black hair tongue, in which epithelial growth is increased and the rate of exfoliation is decreased. In these cases, the application should be interrupted or discontinued immediately and a dentist should be consulted, who can then perform a “shave” of the tongue.

Often, inadequate oral hygiene or sanitation is the cause of dental plaque buildup, which is medically referred to as “plaque.” In addition to inflammation of the gums (gingivitis and periodontitis), dental plaque also leads to dental caries, which at a certain level also causes strong bad breath.

In addition to oral hygiene, saliva plays an important role in the development of bad breath. The oral cavity has a very high proportion of mucous membranes, which are kept moist by saliva and thus protect them from cracks caused by dehydration and subsequent penetration of bacteria. In addition, saliva has a very important rinsing function, which not only removes food debris, but also carries immune substances and minerals. As the amount of saliva is significantly reduced in many elderly patients due to their age, they are also more frequently affected by halitosis. If such a reduced amount of saliva is present, it is called relative xerostomia. In addition, a limited manual ability for oral hygiene or problematic or poorly cleanable dentures can also be the cause of halitosis.

Other causes of relative dry mouth can be mouth breathing and/or snoring, stress, increased alcohol consumption, but also a chronically too low fluid intake.

Furthermore, halitosis can also be the cause of an as yet undetected general disease in rare cases. For this reason alone, the cause of bad breath should be clarified in more detail. The first point of contact for this is your dentist.

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