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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

What to do when your breath smells like garbage

How 2 alternative therapists and a doctor alleviate bad breath in their patients

BAD breath, medically called halitosis, can result from poor oral hygiene habits and may be a sign of other health problems. Bad breath can also be made worse by the types of food eaten and unhealthy lifestyle habits.

If we rule out poor oral hygiene, bad breath or halitosis may be a sign of more deep-seated health problems. Depending on any other accompanying symptoms, several diagnoses may be associated with bad breath.

According to TCM, bad breath is generally attributed to indigestion and a weak stomach, said Mr Lee SC, principal TCM practitioner with Chinese Herbal Heritage. This condition is due to weak and blocked
qi caused by emotional imbalance and poor dietary or eating habits. Eating hurriedly, keeping irregular meal times or over-indulgence in a particular type of food can contribute to the problem.

Frequent indigestion will lead to the accumulation of stagnant residual food and heat in the stomach. Since there is interconnectivity and mutual dependence of all the organ systems, what starts off as indigestion
and bad breath can lead to other health problems. Other possible problems associated with bad breath include irritable bowel syndrome, acne or yeast infections.

Based on the identified root cause, your TCM practitioner may prescribe herbs and recommend foods such as poria (fu ling), hawthorn (shan zha), baikal skullcap (huang qin) or orange peel (chen pi).

The key treatment aims are to strengthen the qi flow, improve digestion, remove heat and tonify the stomach and spleen, and realign other organ imbalances. Each treatment is individualised according to diagnosis of the symptoms. It is important to note that the success of the therapy involves changes in lifestyle and dietary habits.

Aromatherapists may add two to three drops of tea tree oil (or a blend of antiseptic or germicidal oils) to a glass of lukewarm water. Stir well before washing the mouth out and gargling with the mixture twice daily, said aromatherapist Christine Lim from Ancient Art of Aromatherapy.

For general dental hygiene, dissolve five drops each of thyme, tea tree or fennel oil in one tablespoon of vodka, and add 250ml of distilled water into a dark container with a tight lid. Shake well. Leave for a month, then filter with coffee filter paper. Use the mixture to rinse the month twice daily.

Traditional remedies to sweeten the breath are chewing caraway seeds, coriander seeds and clove buds. Parsley, peppermint and basil leaves also work after eating strongsmelling food.

Dental hygiene with regular brushing and flossing is also vital. Brushing the tongue every morning also helps.

Most of the time, bad breath originates in the mouth. It is caused by the oral bacteria that breaks down food debris. This creates by-products called volatile sulphur compounds that emit a smell similar to rotten eggs.

Bad breath or halitosis is commonly due to dental problems, including poor oral hygiene, tooth decay, gum diseases and external agents such as ingestion of garlic, coffee and smoking. In some conditions, the odour may be caused by dry mouth conditions that arise because of decreased saliva flow, respiratory tract infections such as throat, sinus or lung infections, liver and kidney ailments, gastrointestinal disturbances
or refluxes, dieting or fasting, or even psychiatric illness.

One of the easiest and most efficient treatments for halitosis is regular flossing, and brushing and cleaning of the teeth and tongue, said Dr Lisa Park, a family dental surgeon with Raffles Dental. Effective oral rinses such
as chlorohexidine eliminate problematic bacteria. Avoid rinses that contain alcohol as they can dehydrate the mouth, damage gum tissue and, in turn, encourage the development of bad breath.

Drink lots of water throughout the day to increase saliva flow as this helps to dissolve sulphur compounds. This is especially important when you are exercising heavily, or during pregnancy or menstruation.

Chewing sugar-free gum also helps to relieve a dry mouth by stimulating saliva production. It is advisable to avoid caffeinated beverages such as tea and coffee as they can contribute to oral dehydration.

If you have a dry throat or nasal passages, try a saline nasal spray. A humidifier in dry weather can prevent drying out of the mouth and nasal passages.

Avoid eating onion or garlic, as the odours can remain in the bloodstream. However, this is only a temporary problem, and not the cause of bad breath. Most importantly, stop smoking or chewing tobacco.

And maintain your dental health with regular dental visits.

Should a halitosis condition persist, see a hysician. Usually, from differential diagnosis, we can determine whether a halitosis problem is of a medical or dental origin.

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