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Halitosis: A Discomforting Oral Condition Pervading The Globe

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We should have a way of telling people they have bad breath without hurting their feelings. Well, I’m bored. Let’s go brush our teeth. Or, I’ve got to make a phone call. Hold this gum in your mouth. – Brad Stine

There are different kinds of ailments in existence which can cause gross embarrassment especially in public places. Some people just stifle laughter in order to cover the horrifying foul smell that emits from their breath while others try to smell their own breath.

This condition known as Halitosis is a common menace in our modern society. It is also known as ‘bad breath’ or in our local way as ‘mouth odour’.

According to Bad Breathe Institute (2012), “between 35 and 45 % of the world population have some level of halitosis or bad breath, however everyone suffers from bad breath at some point in their life and at some time of the day.

Researchers estimate that over 80 million Americans suffer from chronic halitosis. Each year, Americans spend over $10 billion on oral hygiene products (i.e. mints, gums, mouthwashes, toothpastes, etc.) to combat chronic bad breath.

These products only mask and cover up the problem.” Little is known about the actual prevalence of Halitosis in Nigeria, but a hospital based study by Arowojulo and Dosumu in 2004 indicated that 14.5% of patients presented in the clinic had bad breath.

In a survey of 5,000 singles conducted by Match.com, 43% indicated that fresh breath mattered the most before a date, while some dating studies show that bad breath is among the 3 most unattractive traits in dating prospects.

70% of teens say bad breath is an instant turnoff; 85% believe it’s the most important thing to avoid when meeting someone for the first time. People that have bad breath are 60% more likely to suffer from stress than people who do not have it.

57% of bad breath sufferers report feelings of depression because of their problem. It’s more prevalent in males than in females but the good thing is that 90% of bad breath is curable.

There are over 600 types of bacteria found in the mouth. Many of these can produce high level of foul odours when incubated in the laboratory. Tongue bacteria produce malodorous compounds and fatty acids, and accounts for 80 to 90% of all cases of mouth-related bad breath.

Since the mouth is exposed to less oxygen and is inactive during the night, the odour is usually worse in the morning (“morning breath”).

Other than poor oral hygiene leading to accumulation of bacteria, eating certain foods like garlic, onion, meat, fish, cheese or smoking and alcohol consumption can also cause bad breath.

When the mouth is dry excessively (Xerostomia) due to medication or continuous mouth breathing, bad breath is highly observed. It can also be associated with certain conditions like post nasal drips, diabetes, gastrointestinal tract disorders and liver or kidney disorders.

Even though there are analysis that can be done to ascertain bad breath by expects such as Halimeters, Gas Chromatography, BANA test etc.

One can also discover presence of bad breath by licking the back of the wrist, smell the result after two minutes. But this test results is often inflated, because some people have what is known as Halito-phobia, (highly exaggerated concern of having bad breath).

Scientists have long thought that smelling one’s own breath odour is often difficult due to acclimatization, although many people with bad breath are able to detect it in others. One can ask a trusted close friend (“confidant”) for breath test.

If the confidant confirms that there is a breath problem he or she can help determine whether it is coming from the mouth or the nose, and a medical help is advised.

Gently cleaning the tongue surface twice daily is the most effective way to keep bad breath in control; that can be achieved using a tooth brush, tongue cleaner or tongue brush/scraper (inverted teaspoon) to wipe off the bacterial Biofilm, debris, and mucus.

Flossing is particularly important in removing rotten food debris and bacterial plaque from between the teeth, especially at the gum line. Eating a healthy breakfast is another way to keep Halitosis in check.

Chewing sugarless gum can help with the production of saliva, prevent dry mouth and thereby help to reduce bad breath and ultimately increase expressive confidence.

More importantly, drinking water at least 8 glasses daily will help to reduce dry mouth and wash off accumulated dirt lurking under the tongue, thereby curb bad breath and its social effects.

However, the role of a dentist is very important in the treatment of bad breath.

After making changes on dental hygiene routine, there is need to visit the dentist if bad breath persists as there may be a medical cause which possibly needs further investigation to ascertain the actual cause.

A twice yearly dental check is a practice every Nigerian must imbibe.

Obi Lois Amarachukwu; tasielois360@gmail.com

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