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BY Dr. Angelo V. Fernandez, DMD, FICD


Bad breath, or halitosis, as what dentists normally call it, is a condition described as breath with unpleasant odor that causes embarrassment. With 85 to 90 percent of all the causes originating from the mouth itself (bacteria that live in the mouth are the primary causes of bad breath), bad breath affects a significant number of people.

Common causes

Some people with bad breath are not even aware that they are suffering from this condition; it is because the odor-detecting cells in our nose eventually become accustomed to the constant flow of the bad smell in the mouth. The following are the most common causes of bad breath:

• POOR ORAL HYGIENE: infrequent and improper tooth brushing and flossing can leave food debris to decay inside the mouth, giving off the characteristic of rotten egg smell.

• TOOTH DECAY: Bacteria-caused tooth decay is an important causative agent of bad breath. The bacteria have a putrefactive or rottening action on the mouth leading to its demineralization.

• DRY MOUTH: When there is a reduction or absence of saliva in the mouth, it leads to accumulation of plaque, favoring bacterial growth and bad breath. Mouth breathing is also one of the causes of dry mouth.

• SYSTEMIC ILLNESSES OR MEDICAL DISORDER: Local infection in the respiratory tract, chronic sinusitis, post nasal drip, diabetes, gastrointestinal disturbance, liver or kidney dysfunction, and chronic bronchitis are possible causes.

• SEVERE DIETING: This causes bad breath due to ketoacidosis from prolonged starvation.

• EXTERNAL AGENTS: What you eat affects the air you exhale. Avoid eating certain foods like garlic, onions, coffee, and chewing tobacco.

• SMOKING: Smoking causes ‘smoker’s breath’ which is due to the accumulation of nicotine, tar, and other foul-smelling substances in the mouth.

• INFECTION OF THE MOUTH: Gum and periodontal diseases, oral cancer, and oral lesions are few examples.


Bad breath can be prevented easily. Eat a well-balanced diet. Proper dental care should be observed by brushing your teeth, tongue, and gums; floss at least twice a day and rinse with mouthwash, so that food debris would not remain in the mouth. We can prevent dry mouth by increasing our fluid intake and chewing sugar-free dental health gum with xylitol that stimulates the flow of saliva and helps prevent dental cavities. Eat foods that keep breath fresh and prevent plaque from forming like raw carrots and celery.

Stop smoking, ask your dentist for tips on how to kick the habit. Smoking also interferes with the normal functioning of the cells in the gum tissue. It is also associated with lung cancer, but another major bad effect of smoking is “oral cancer.” Periodontal disease or gum problem also responds quickly to proper dental treatment, so visit your dentist’s at least twice a year. Dental caries should be restored immediately through dental filing, in some severe cases root canal treatment is an alternative procedure. If left untreated, it may lead to tooth loss.

Bad breath caused by systemic illness may be a long-term problem that can also be controlled with proper medical care. Once bad breath has been diagnosed, the expectation for fresh breath is usually excellent as long as you follow your dentist’s or physician’s treatment plan.

About the speaker/author:

Dr. Angelo Fernandez, DMD, FICD, is the Chairman of the Philippine Dental Association Committee on Dental Public Health 2011.  Click on

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