Clues to health in bad breath

New Straits Times - - Pulse -

DID you know that a per­son’s breath can tell quite a lot of things about him (or her) and his con­di­tion? You could be healthy and ripe for love with your “sweet breath”, but you could also be sick and suf­fer­ing from bad breath or hal­i­to­sis. It is not just about that oc­ca­sional bad breath caused by in­dulging in strong-smelling foods such as petai, durian and gar­lic.

Some­times, a per­son’s bad breath could be a sign of ill­nesses be­yond mere poor oral hy­giene; it could be an in­di­ca­tor of some­thing more se­ri­ous and sin­is­ter.

Many years ago, I had re­cur­rent bouts of si­nusi­tis. I tol­er­ated the pain for a long time and treated it symp­tomat­i­cally with med­i­ca­tions and nasal sprays. Then, one day, I smelt rot­ten garbage ev­ery­where. I cleaned my house like a pos­sessed woman, try­ing to get rid of the aw­ful smell. I was hop­ing to find its source as I scoured ev­ery inch and cor­ner of the house. My fam­ily thought I had gone quite mad be­cause they couldn’t smell the rot that I was ob­sess­ing about.

As the days pro­gressed and my headaches be­came worse, I went to see an ENT (ear, nose and throat) spe­cial­ist. Af­ter de­tailed ex­am­i­na­tion and tests, he con­firmed that I had a se­vere case of si­nusi­tis with polyps in the si­nus cavities. That was the cause of the garbage smell. It was in­side my nose and nasal pas­sages.

The doc­tor said in worse cases, even the per­son next to you would be able to smell that aw­ful odour, es­pe­cially from your breath be­cause most peo­ple with such prob­lems were mouth breathers. I was for­tu­nate that the doc­tor was very good at what he did and solved the prob­lem for me. He sur­gi­cally re­moved the polyps and af­ter a few weeks, I was back to nor­mal.

I could smell again, and the smells were all ap­pro­pri­ate. It has been more than 20 years now and I’ve never suf­fered that again. I had for­got­ten how won­der­ful fresh air smelt, not to men­tion ev­ery­thing else.

Now that I can smell again, I find that I am quite sen­si­tive to all sorts of smell. It’s as though my ol­fac­tory was given a good over­haul.


When you’re a care­giver, be­ing able to smell well can alert you to cer­tain things. It’s not al­ways pleas­ant, but you can some­times pre­vent some­thing be­fore it gets worse. For ex­am­ple, you can tell when some­one has den­tal prob­lems like tooth de­cay or gum dis­ease. A per­son might be able to mask it with mouth­wash or breath mints, but that doesn’t last very long. That per­son would need to see the den­tist to ad­dress is­sues like cavities and gin­givi­tis.

When my chil­dren were younger, the odour of their breaths al­ways alerted me if some­thing was not quite right. It could be any­thing from sore throats to ac­tual den­tal prob­lems.

You don’t have to be in each other’s to en­sure the qual­ity of our work. When com­bined, the heads-on, hearts-on and hands-on is a very pow­er­ful tool to achieve what­ever tar­gets you have set for your­self.

Be­ing a vet­eran ed­u­ca­tor, I am sure Dr Khairul has seen many through­out his faces to know this. Just sit­ting next to that per­son, or across from him will tell you that some­thing’s not quite right. In ad­di­tion to reg­u­lar den­tal check-ups, I would take them or my staff to the den­tist when I sus­pected den­tal prob­lems. There was a time when one of them was re­ally stinky. The breath was so bad that sit­ting at close quar­ters felt like pun­ish­ment. The den­tist di­ag­nosed poor oral hy­giene and lack of drink­ing plain wa­ter be­cause for years this per­son had re­fused to drink plain wa­ter, pre­fer­ring juices and bev­er­ages in­stead. Once that was cor­rected, the odour dis­ap­peared like magic.

Bad breath or hal­i­to­sis can also be caused by con­di­tions such as dry mouth, de­hy­dra­tion, smok­ing, res­pi­ra­tory in­fec­tions such as sore throat and si­nusi­tis, di­a­betes and acid re­flux.

Some med­i­ca­tions are cul­prits too. Dif­fer­ent con­di­tions give out dif­fer­ent odours, from metal­lic, fruity and fishy to mouldy breath.

Peo­ple who are fast­ing, for ex­am­ple, usu­ally have that typ­i­cal “fast­ing breath”. In fact, any­one who had missed out on meals would have this breath be­cause the mouth slows its pro­duc­tion of saliva with the lack of meals or flu­ids. This causes dry mouth, which in turn, causes bad breath.

Peo­ple who go on low or no carb di­ets can also suf­fer from bad breath while the body burns fat — that is the smell of ke­to­sis tak­ing place.

To com­bat this, prac­tis­ing good oral hy­giene such as brush­ing teeth at least twice daily, floss­ing reg­u­larly to re­move de­bris and plaque, and scrap­ing the tongue helps. You also need to drink lots of wa­ter and visit your den­tist on sched­ule. years of ser­vice. The whole or­gan­i­sa­tion’s pas­sion of ed­u­cat­ing our chil­dren was very clearly pro­jected by each one of them — from the board of di­rec­tors to the di­rec­tor and all the lec­tur­ers in­volved. I must thank them for craft­ing yet an­other su­per­star in the mak­ing.

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