‘Tis the season of parties, family get-togethers and situations where we are much more likely to get up close and personal. Are you ready to welcome the family and neighbours?
Dental hygienists report that one of the most common reasons given for not flossing or cleaning interdentally is being ‘too busy over Christmas’. Could this be a potential embarrassment as we exchange seasonal hugs, kisses and good wishes?
The most likely cause of halitosis is incomplete removal of plaque from the teeth, gums and tongue. Plaque is a complex sticky film of microorganisms that will repeatedly build up in the mouth and become more problematic if not removed regularly.
Some of the bacteria present are capable of producing quite a pungent odour which we know as bad breath or halitosis. This can be an acutely embarrassing problem for the sufferer and those around them, especially if the sufferer is blissfully unaware of their problem. It is not uncommon for halitosis sufferers to be completely unaware of this mal-odour, as their nasal receptors adjust to this persistent smell.
So how do we know if we are an unfortunate sufferer?
Some people suggest licking the back of the hand and smelling it to assess for halitosis. However, this can only demonstrate the bacteria and their toxins found on the tongue. Perhaps a more effective method is to floss or bottle brush the side of a molar (back) tooth and then smell this. Molar teeth have a large surface area that can’t be cleaned readily with a toothbrush and are often the source of the bacteria that produce a bad smell. If you feel your tongue is the culprit, then a tongue scraper may help.
How can we solve the problem?
Special mouthwashes containing zinc chloride can help to deodorise the breath but are more likely to relive symptoms rather than address the cause of the problem. There is no mouthwash on the market that will remove plaque from teeth so careful brushing is still the key to the problem.
Daily effective interdental cleaning with brushes and or floss usually resolves the issue, however, if the problem persists it may be due to the presence of periodontal (gum) disease, an infection in the mouth, or even a throat or stomach problem.
Some more obvious mal-odour comes from strongly flavoured food or cigarettes, which can only be resolved by avoiding these substances. A more persistent odour is likely to be caused by volatile sulphurous compounds such as hydrogen sulphide, methyl mercaptan and dimethyl sulphide, which has been linked to the bacteria found in our mouths.
If you do suspect you might be suffering from halitosis you will find your dental team will offer a sympathetic and supportive plan to identify the cause and help you control this issue. The good news is, there will be a solution to this embarrassing problem.
About the author;
Jo qualified as a dental hygienist in Leeds in 1988 and currently works in general practice in Crewe. She is Mum to 2 teenage girls Amy and Sophie. In her spare time she enjoys modern jive dancing, playing her saxophone and watching rugby league.
In 2014 Jo was awarded The Dentistry Show’s ‘ Most Outstanding Team Member’, was highly commended at The Hygienist and Therapy Awards and in 2015 was voted ‘Dental Hygienist of the Year’ at the Dental Awards ceremony.