bad breath has nothing if not dozens and dozens of causes, some of them common, others exceedingly rare. One of the least common agents of halitosis is scurvy, a disease caused by extreme vitamin C deficiency. It is a rare disease in the developed world, but it causes bad breath by encouraging another, much more common gum condition.
The word "scurvy" dates back to the mid 1500s, when nautical exploration caused a rapid rise in the disease. In 1589, in Richard Hakluyt's Principal Navigations, it is described this way - "Our legs now?.swollen every joint withall, with this disease, which, by your leave, the Scurvie men doe call."
It is caused by an extreme deficiency of vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid. The body needs vitamin C for a number of its functions and for enzyme production. Typically, people who suffer from scurvy are very poorly nourished. They usually eat few or no fruits or vegetables, wither by choice or simply because there is nothing to eat. Scurvy and halitosis result.
The symptoms of scurvy include joint pain, lethargy, bruising, loosening teeth, thinning hair and gingivitis, according to the UK National Health Service. At its most advanced stage, scurvy results in fever, seizures, nerve damage and death.
Scurvy is serious but ultimately quite rare. Many cases of scurvy in the U.S. are found in severely malnourished people. However, scurvy causes gingivitis, a common condition and one that leads to bad breath.
Gingivitis is an infection of the gums that leaves them red, swollen and tender. Often, tartar collects beneath the swollen tissue, contributing to tooth decay and further infection. Severe gingivitis is known as periodontitis, a serious condition of the mouth that can lead to tooth loss.
One of the symptoms of gingivitis is bad breath. Gum disease is caused by oral bacteria and aggravated by anaerobic microorganisms that live in the mouth and produce sulfuric compounds, which the nose associates with bad breath.
Preventing scurvy is relatively simple. Eating even one serving of fruit a day can virtually guarantee that an individual will not come down with a vitamin C deficiency. Preventing gingivitis usually involves brushing regularly, flossing and visiting the dentist.
To get rid of bad breath caused by gingivitis or other factors, rinsing the mouth with a specialty breath freshener can eliminate the sulfuric compounds that account for the powerful odors of halitosis.