Halitosis Can Be a Symptom of a Serious Disease

Bad breath is nothing unusual; most of us have it from time to time especially in the early morning. And yet it can become quite the problem for our self-esteem sometimes. Thankfully we have some of the most efficient tricks that will eliminate bad breath in a matter of seconds. Brushing the teeth, mints, or a little bit of mouthwash eliminate bad breath immediately. In some cases, nothing seems to be helpful and bad breath persists. That is where the problems begin. What you may have thought to be a harmless occurrence in your life, it can very easily be the sign of your body telling you that something is not quite right. That means you have halitosis i.e. chronic bad breath and it usually indicates some more serious problem is involved. Scroll down to learn more about halitosis and conditions that are connected to it. Perhaps you will discover the reason that has been causing halitosis in your case!

What is halitosis?

Halitosis is defined as a chronic bad breath that mint and mouthwash can’t solve, as mentioned above. Also known as fetor oris, halitosis can make an affected person subconscious and they feel reluctant to hang out with larger groups of people because they are embarrassed by their bad breath. It is estimated that 1 in 4 people have halitosis on a regular basis[i]. According to the latest statistics, an estimated 25% of the world population is having trouble with this annoying symptom. After tooth decay and gum disease, halitosis is the third most common reason people seek dental care[ii]. As should you if you ever notice that your toothpaste or mouthwash does not seem to win the fight over that awful bad breath.
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Causes of halitosis

Your breath is composed of complex substances with variable odors that can generate unpleasant situations such as halitosis that affects more than 50% of general population[iii]. The odor is caused by the presence of bacteria in the mouth, tooth decay, presence of waste materials, leftover food particles and etc. Numerous causes can contribute to halitosis and induce this bad breath that is difficult to eliminate. Some of the most common causes[iv] include:

  • Food particles – If not removed in time, the presence of food particles will result in a awful bad breath.
  • Dry mouth – Due to the lack of saliva, the bacteria that is present in the mouth is not properly removed. Dry mouth is often caused by the use of certain medications and of course – the inappropriate water and fluids intake.
  • Dental problems such as tooth decay and gum disease – The presence of such diseases can easily cause a certain odor to develop which will eventually go away as soon as the primary cause is treated.
  • Chewing or smoking tobacco – Smokers have a trouble controlling their bad breath, especially because of their frequent use of tobacco.
  • Lack of dental hygiene – Lack of dental hygiene is the most common cause of bad breath but also for other common dental issues as well such as tooth decay.
  • Some medications can produce chemicals as they break down and contribute to halitosis
  • Crash diets
  • Having a foreign body lodged in a nasal cavity, particularly in children
  • Allergies
  • Pregnancy – Perhaps an uncommon symptom, but pregnancy as well can lead to the occurrence of bad breath.
  • Alcoholism – Alcohol causes bad breath to develop which is why it is very common for people who are suffering from alcoholism to have a chronic bad breath.
  • Large doses of vitamin supplements – Vitamin supplements should be taken on a daily level, especially if you are unsure whether or not you intake the recommended amount of vitamins. However, make sure that you take just the recommended amount and nothing in between because it can very easily be the cause of your bad breath.

Conditions that cause halitosis

It is a little-known fact that halitosis can be a result of some underlying health problems. In fact, halitosis can be the sign that makes you wonder if there is something more deeply hidden that is causing your health to decline. Here are some of the most common health issues that create bad breath.

Pneumonia – an infection in one of both lungs; it accounts for 16% of all deaths under the age of five. About 920,136 children died in 2015 due to pneumonia[v]. The potentially lethal condition is caused by viruses, bacteria or fungi. Bearing in mind that pneumonia involves air sacs in the lungs that become inflamed they become filled up with pus and phlegm which are odiferous when a patient coughs. Constant coughing takes its toll on the breath. Bad breath can be the reason why you are asking for professional help and getting your pneumonia diagnosed at the same time, increasing your chances of survival by the minute.

Kidney disease – about 31 million people in the United States or 10% of the population have chronic kidney disease[vi]. Kidney disease refers to the gradual loss of kidney function and it can be a complication of many other health conditions. How does kidney disease cause halitosis? These organs filter out different minerals in the blood and send healthy blood back to your body and heart. Kidney failure impairs the ability of this organ to filter out minerals and they accumulate in the bloodstream. As a result, you experience a metallic taste and bad breath.

Liver disease – it can be inherited or caused by different factors that harm your liver, especially alcohol as well as cirrhosis, hepatitis A, B, C, D and E. Symptoms include fatigue, nausea, vomiting, weight loss and yellowing of the skin. Bad breath also seems to be quite the common symptom of liver disease. The liver detoxifies the body by expelling toxins, but diseases that affect its function prevent the liver from doing its job. The accumulation of toxins causes a foul odor in your breath.

Diabetes – the CDC reports that 30.3 million people have diabetes, which is 9.4% of American population[vii]. Diabetes means you have too much glucose, but the body doesn’t produce enough insulin (or at all) to regulate it. Diabetes is a potentially life-threatening disease that requires early diagnosis, control upon the symptoms and proper treatment. People with diabetes are at a higher risk of periodontal disease and bad breath is one of its many symptoms. Diabetes also contributes to halitosis due to extra ketones it produces.

Chronic acid reflux – a digestive disorder, also known as GERD, is a condition that affects lower esophageal sphincter, the ring of muscle between stomach and esophagus. A burning sensation in the chest (heartburn), chest pain, difficulty swallowing and regurgitation of food in the mouth are the most common symptoms of GERD. Risk factors include pregnancy, obesity, smoking, eating certain foods etc. The influx of acids and other partially digested particles into the esophagus and mouth cavity can lead to halitosis.

Conclusion

Halitosis refers to bad breath that doesn’t go away once you take mints. In many cases, it is a sign of a bigger problem and could indicate something is wrong with your health. If you experience this problem, it’s a good idea to consult your doctor. As you can see from today’s article, your bad breath might be the sign of your body telling you that something is not right. Bad breath might be the first sign towards detection of kidney disease, diabetes and even pneumonia among others, all of which require urgent attention and early diagnosis so that their treatment can be effective and fact! Do not feel ashamed of your bad breath or feel the need to hide it and yourself away from people – ask for help right away!

References

[i] Bad breath (halitosis), NHS https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/bad-breath/
[ii] Everything you need to know about bad breath, MedicalNewsToday https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/166636.php
[iii] Aylıkcı BU, Çolak H. Halitosis: From diagnosis to management. Journal of Natural Science, Biology, and Medicine. 2013;4(1):14-23. doi:10.4103/0976-9668.107255. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3633265/
[iv] What is halitosis? Occasional bad breath or a chronic problem? Colgate https://www.colgate.com/en-us/oral-health/conditions/bad-breath/what-is-halitosis-occasional-bad-breath-or-a-chronic-problem-0514
[v] Pneumonia, WHO http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs331/en/
[vi] 2015 kidney disease statistics, American Kidney Fund http://www.kidneyfund.org/assets/pdf/kidney-disease-statistics.pdf
[vii] National diabetes statistics report, CDC https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/data/statistics/statistics-report.html

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