Georgetown Health Care Center

Georgetown Pharmacy


Bad Breath

Bad breath, or halitosis, will be experienced by most of the population at some time in their lives. While this is most often a social problem that can be improved through simple measures, bad breath may signal an underlying health problem.

For 50 to 90 percent of persons with bad breath, the cause can be attributed to problems originating in the mouth. Factors that negatively affect the creath include sleep, the use of mouth appliances, age, hunger, tabacco use, and certain foods and medications.

Morning breath. While you sleep, the flow of saliva stops almost completely. Because saliva flow cleanses the mouth by decreasing the growth of certain bacteria, sleep allows these bacteria to grow, and odorous gases are produced. Any saliva that remains in the mouth during sleep stagnates and contributes to halitosis.

Mouth appliances. Food debris can accumulate on appliances worn in the mouth, such as dentures, removable bridges, and partial plates. It is important to remove and clean these at least once daily or as directed by a dentist.

Age. While the breath of infants and children is typically pleasant, it becomes progressively more unpleasant with age. The breath of elderly persons tends to be more disagreeable than those younger, regardless of oral hygiene.

Food. The metabolites of certain foods, such as onion, garlic, pastrami, and alcohol, are absorbed into the circulatory system and excreted through the lungs. Meat eaters are more likely to have bad breath than are vegetarians since the lungs excrete byproducts of proteins and fats that cause bad breath.

Medications. Some medications that cause the mouth to become dry can cause bad breath. Potential problem drugs include amphetamines, antidepressants, antihistamines, diuretics, and some medications used to treat hypertension, pain, and anxiety.

Ways to prevent bad breath include brushing your teeth (and tongue) at least twice daily using a fluoride toothpaste, making certain to brush along the gumline. Eat less meat and more frutis and vegetables. Floss daily. Avoid foods that cause bad breath. If problems persist, a prescription-only mouthwash that contains chlorhexidine to kill bacteria may be useful.

Improving Health Care...Our Total Commitment


This page was last updated on: Friday, September 20,1996
Please send comments to: dennis@ghccusa.com

copyright 1996 by HealthCare Equity, Inc.