The advice of our general practitioner to fight against bad breath and avoid irritation when shaving.
Question: My mouth is constantly dry and my family tells me that I have bad breath. It’s very embarrassing and makes me quite paranoid when talking to others. I think I have good dental health. What could be causing this?
Dr Nina responds: Bad breath, or bad breath as it is medically called, is likely to affect most people at some point in their lives. In most cases, there is a short-term cause and the disease resolves, but sometimes it can be more prolonged. This can be embarrassing and lead to decreased confidence and anxiety.
Two of the most common causes of halitosis are coffee and cigarettes, and this combination can be particularly unpleasant. Foods such as garlic, onions, or certain spices are another common cause of bad breath at any given time.
Alcohol is another culprit (beer breath anyone?). This is often more pronounced the next morning.
Morning halitosis is almost universal. We produce less saliva at night. Our mouths become drier, so food debris and dead skin cells that are normally washed away accumulate. Bacteria act on it, producing a very unpleasant odor.
Any mouth disease or poor dental hygiene will increase the risk of halitosis. Bacteria that colonize the tongue can produce sulfur compounds and cause bad breath. Fixed dentures can be more difficult to clean properly and can lead to an increased risk of halitosis.
Disease of the nasal cavity and throat can also lead to bad breath. Those who suffer from chronic sinus problems and congestion tend to have bad breath. They may have increased levels of bacteria present, which can affect breathing. This leads to chronic dry mouth, which is a common cause of halitosis. Other diseases of the chest and lungs can also contribute.
A less obvious cause of halitosis is acid reflux or stomach problems. Helicobacter pylorus is a bacteria that can live in the stomach and cause conditions such as heartburn or gastritis. Treating digestive problems can improve breathing in some people.
People with pseudo-halitosis are believed to have bad breath, even when there is no evidence to confirm it. It is a psychological illness, but those affected can spend time and money trying to get a diagnosis. Psychological therapies can help here.
It is difficult to smell your own breath, and those close to you may notice or confirm it.
A visit to the dentist is a good starting point for checking the health of your gums and teeth and for treating any active dental disease. Drink plenty of water as a dry mouth can give off unpleasant odors and avoid smoking and drinking too much coffee. Make sure to brush your teeth and tongue regularly and after consuming smelly and spicy foods. Use a daily antibacterial mouthwash (chlorhexidine) and floss daily.
See your doctor to assess any sinus, throat, or gastrointestinal problems. You may be referred for a breath test to rule out Helicobacter pylori and sometimes trying drug therapy to eradicate stomach acid may help.
Question: I started shaving my face a few months ago. My skin used to be fine, but now I feel like I have acne on my lower face. Am I allergic to shaving or what is the cause?
Dr Nina responds: You are unlikely to be allergic to shaving, but running a razor over your skin can irritate it. It is important to use the right skin products and take care of your skin. Shaving is unlikely to have caused acne, and more likely an infection related to inflammation of the hair follicles. It is either folliculitis or pseudofolliculitis of the beard.
Folliculitis is usually caused by a bacterial infection or, although rarely, a fungus can be the cause. Superficial skin infections are the most common. Bacteria that live on the skin most often cause them. This causes inflamed red lumps and sometimes itches. These can fill with pus and appear as yellow acne-like pustules. If the infection is deeper, large, thick red lumps, which may be painful, may appear.
Pseudofolliculitis of the beard may look similar, but it is due to the regrowth of ingrown hairs in the skin after shaving, leading to inflammation and redness.
Folliculitis can improve with the use of antibiotic ointments or creams. A more pronounced infection may require antibiotic tablets. It is important to treat this because, if left untreated, scarring may appear. In chronic infection, steroid creams can reduce inflammation.
Growing a beard for up to 30 days may allow the inflammation to resolve. Or consider using an electric or single-bladed razor that leaves you with shadow at five o’clock. Keeping the hair above the skin line can reduce inflammation of the hair follicle. For a close shave, it is essential to use new, clean blades every time. Apply a warm cloth to the face to heat the skin and soften the hair. Apply a generous amount of shaving cream. Shave in the direction of the hair growth, not in the opposite direction. Rinse skin and pat dry face after shaving.
Avoid using any cream or lotion that contains alcohol as this can irritate the skin. Applying a cream containing glycolic acid unclogs the pores and can help reduce the infection.