Bad Breath: What Does It Mean?

Bad Breath: What Does It Mean?

  • Post category:Health

Oral and dental health cannot be separated from general health among the elderly. Poorly maintained oral hygiene can lead to unusual bad breath. This condition may be a sign that there is mouth and teeth infection that needs attention so it does not develop into a more serious disease.

Why Does Our Breath Smell?

Many of us may feel that our breath still smells in the morning when we wake up even though we have brushed our teeth right before bed at night. Or there is a foul odor coming out of our mouth during the day even in the morning we have brushed when we took a shower. If so, you are not alone. Bad breath is a problem experienced by many people. But it is important to know what causes it and how to deal with it.

According to science, many functions of the human body rest or stop working temporarily while we sleep. One of these is the gland that produces saliva. Saliva plays an important role in fighting bad breath because it contains a lot of oxygen that can kill the bacteria that cause bad breath.

Saliva also helps wash away food debris in the mouth and teeth which may trigger bacterial growth. When saliva production is reduced, bacteria may grow faster and cause bad breath. Especially if we don’t brush our teeth at night before bed. For example, older people with limited mobility due to certain diseases who find it difficult to take care of their oral and dental health. That’s why our breath tends to smell in the morning.

Bad breath in the morning usually disappears after we brush and do activities. If the odor is still there, it could be a sign of halitosis or chronic bad breath. Halitosis is unordinary bad breath. Negligence in maintaining oral hygiene as often happens in the elderly that leads to oral and dental infections can be an instrumental factor. The presence of some disease may also be responsible for the bad breath that is difficult to get rid of. Dental examination by a dentist is necessary to determine the cause and appropriate treatment.

What are the Causes of Bad Breath?

There are various causes of bad breath. Bacteria are the main cause of bad breath from children to adults. When a person is not persistently maintaining oral and dental hygiene, the result is bad breath. This is not uncommon especially in children, that is why parents need to teach children how to brush their teeth properly.

Foul odor that is frequent and difficult to dispose is often caused by gases released by bacteria that fill the teeth, gums, and tongue. Leftover food that is stuck and rots between teeth also causes bad breath. Especially food with a strong smell like onion.

Plaque that sticks to teeth and gums and cavities can trigger infections in the mouth and gum disease. A sign of gum disease is bad breath or bad taste in the mouth. Other causes of bad breath include infections of the throat, nose, or lungs, acid reflux (GERD), sinusitis, bronchitis, diabetes, and kidney or liver disease. Smoking habits can also lead to bad breath.

Xerostomia or dry mouth, which is a condition when the mouth produces less saliva, will facilitate the accumulation of bacteria that cause bad breath in the mouth. Because of aging, older people salivate less so they are more likely to suffer from bad breath. In addition, different medications that they have to take because of certain diseases may trigger changes in the work of the salivary glands. The same goes for older people who wear dentures. Therefore, it is important to maintain the oral and dental health of the elderly, including dentures.

What are the Complications and Risks of Bad Breath?

Bad breath can affect quality of life of people who experience it. One thing for sure, their social life will be definitely affected. Their career may be affected too. Moreover, people with chronic bad breath tend to be unaware of the problems they are experiencing. This is because the cells in the nose that control the perception of smells become unresponsive due to constant exposure to unpleasant odor. The nose gets used to the smell.

For the elderly, the side effect that often occurs is that people are uncomfortable being around them, including when they need caring. As a result, there may be more dangerous risks. For example, they fall without anyone noticing. For this reason, it is vital to care for oral and dental health of the elderly.

Bad breath may also lead to complications related to the cause. For example, when the cause of bad breath are kidney diseases, kidney failure may occur. Bad breath can also be a sign of heart disease if the trigger is gum disease. Bacteria from the mouth that cause gum disease may enter the bloodstream and trigger inflammation of the blood vessels leading to the heart.

How to Avoid Bad Breath?

To prevent bad breath, the main things to do is to maintain oral and dental hygiene.

  • Brush your teeth at least twice a day
  • Use dental floss to remove food debris that sticks to teeth (flossing) after brush or eat
  • Be sure to brush your tongue, the inside of your cheeks, and the roof of your mouth as well
  • If necessary, rinse your mouth with mouthwash or oral and liquid toothpaste
  • Drink plenty of water
  • If you wear dentures, remove them at night before bed and clean them before wearing them again
  • Quit smoking
  • Maintain saliva production by eating lots of nutritious foods that need to be chewed, such as carrots and apples
  • Check your teeth and mouth regularly at least every 6 months
  • Maintain general health by adopting healthy and active lifestyle

When to Get Help?

Although it may seem simple, bad breath is a problem that can have far-reaching effects and pose serious risk to life. See a dentist if bad breath does not go away even if you have been carefully taking care of your oral and dental hygiene or for no apparent reason. For example, you have quit smoking and avoided strong smelling food, but your breath is still smelly. Consultation with a doctor is also necessary if there are signs of serious diseases, such as cough and fever which are signs of a respiratory infection.

Therapy at Home

Maintaining oral and dental health to get rid of bad breath starts with home habits. However, some older people have difficulty maintaining or developing good habits in taking care of oral and dental hygiene. For example, older people who have had a stroke and are unable to move their hands normally, making it difficult or even unable for them to brush their own teeth.

In such cases, caregivers are needed to help maintain their oral and dental health. The caregiver can provide occupational therapy to practice hand movements so they may independently clean their mouth and teeth. This therapy is performed according to the needs and conditions of the elderly. In addition to keep oral and dental hygiene to prevent bad breath, older people who get this therapy are expected to be able to do even more daily activities to improve their quality of life.


Reviewed by:
Ditinjau oleh:

Dr. Eddy Wiria, PhD

Co-Founder & CEO Kavacare