The Connection Between H Pylori and Bad Breath
Halitosis, commonly known as “bad breath” or “malodorous breath”, has been linked to h. pylori infections in medical studies though it is a rare condition associated with this type of infection.
Peptic ulcers and other gastric conditions associated with h. pylori bacteria in the stomach have also been known to cause bad breath. This is good news for people who have chronic bad breath because h. pylori can be treated and cured with antibiotics and other medications.
Chronic bad breath is not very common in the general population and is estimated to affect only 25% of the population. H. pylori bacteria is very common and present in up to a half of the world’s population so the connection isn’t obvious based on just the “statistics”.
In fact, up to 90% of people have bad breath because of oral issues and the odors originate in the mouth. This can be because of certain foods, obesity, smoking, and alcohol. Bad breath gets worse when there is a lack of oxygen.
Morning breath, as it is known, is a prime example of this type of bad breath. After being closed all night, the over 600 types of bacteria living in the mouth can become putrid.
H. Pylori Doesn’t Always Cause Bad Breath
Recent studies have proven that h. pylori bacteria can live in the mouth for a short period of time, as well. However, the mere presence of this bacterium in the mouth does not directly cause bad breath. Most cases of bad breath related to these bacteria originate from the digestive system and not the mouth.
Although many people have h. pylori bacteria in their stomachs, most cases aren’t severe enough to cause bad breath. This is aligned with the statistic that only 10% of people with h. pylori develop stomach ulcers.
Only a small number of people with chronic bad breath and a small number of people with h. pylori seek treatment. Therefore, many people with h. pylori induced halitosis rarely know the cause of their bad breath. It is only when H pylori symptoms in the stomach – like burning ulcers – become severe enough for treatment that the h. pylori is eradicated, along with the chronic bad breath.
Bacteria in our exhaled breath can create compounds which smell putrid or rotten. Under certain conditions, these compounds are very concentrated and can lend to long standing bad breath. Antibiotics that are used to treat h. pylori infections may cause bad breath and may resolve bad breath, though that may seem confusing.
Antibiotic Treatments for H. Pylori and Bad Breath
H. pylori infections and h. pylori treatments have been found to cause bad breath. However, once the treatment is complete, many find that the bad breath goes away following successful eradication of the bacteria even if they had bad breath before starting antibiotics.
In cases where a person has had bad breath for their entire life, h. pylori bacteria eradication has been known to solve the problem even though no treatment for the halitosis has ever helped.
Since bad breath is not something that can’t be accurately measure for the purpose of research, medical experts commonly use objective testing. Doctors can measure the levels of compounds that are known to have a foul odor in the exhaled breaths of patients. Contemporary technology provides doctors with ways to test for hydrogen sulfide, methyl mercaptan, and dimethyl sulphide.
Gastrointestinal conditions are well known to cause bad breath, so h pylori infections are no exception. Treatment that includes a regimen of antibiotics, PPIs, and H2 blockers can alleviate bad breath if h. pylori infection is the cause.