Who has never been afraid of having, even for a moment, bad breath? Sometimes bad breath could hide something more serious than the most common causes such as bad oral hygiene or diet: a sleep disorder called sleep apnea is not to be underestimated. When breath, or the emission of bad smell from the mouth, originates from sleep apnea – explains Dr. Vincenzo Tullo, neurologist in charge of the laboratory on headaches at Humanitas – the cause is the excessive proliferation of bacterial biofilm in the mouth favored by the dryness of the mouth typical of those who suffer from this kind of sleep problems.
In fact, halitosis, in general, is the result of hyper-proliferation of bacteria that normally reside in the mouth. Bad breath is created by the gases, derived from sulphur, which these bacteria produce both because of the absence of saliva and as “waste material” after feeding on food residues retained in the mouth. If in the latter case, oral hygiene, including tongue cleansing, can help to resolve halitosis, when the cause is snoring it is important not to underestimate the problem. In fact, during apnea, in addition to an unconscious brain awakening, there is a sudden increase in heart activity due to the low supply of oxygen with blood: in addition to halitosis, which is a sign to pay attention to but not a health problem, the consequences for the body are a restless sleep, excessive fatigue during the day and an increased risk of “stroke of sleep” even when driving. In addition, sleep apnea can increase the risk of hypertension, heart attack, stroke, arrhythmia (heart rate abnormalities) and metabolic changes resulting in obesity and diabetes.