Bad breath – known medically as halitosis – can be an unpleasant and embarrassing condition. We all have it from time to time, even without knowing it. Bad breath occurs for a variety of reasons. In healthy people, it is primarily due to microbial deposits on the tongue, particularly toward the back. Some studies have shown that simply brushing the tongue can reduce bad breath by as much as 70 percent.
What may cause bad breath?
- Morning time – If it’s noticeable just after you wake up in the morning, that’s typical. One of the functions of saliva is to cleanse the mouth, but salivary flow almost stops during sleep. The reduced cleansing action allows bacteria to grow, causing odorous breath in the morning.
- Certain foods – You’re probably aware that certain foods are associated with strong mouth odor. Foods such as garlic, onions and others contain odor-producing compounds, which enter the bloodstream and are exhaled after being transferred to the lungs.
- Poor oral hygiene habits –If bad breath is a constant plague, examine your oral hygiene regimen. Food particles remaining in the mouth promote bacterial growth, so be sure to keep up with brushing and flossing!
- Periodontal (gum) disease – If you’ve noticed that your gums look a bit tender, then gum disease might be contributing to your breath’s odor. Colonies of bacteria can reside under inflamed gums along with food debris.
- Dental cavities and improperly fitted dental appliances – If it’s been a while since you had a dental check-up, then undetected cavities
and poorly fitting dental appliances could be the culprit. Be sure to see your dentist on a regular basis!
- Dry mouth (Xerostomia) – A chronically dry mouth can also be responsible for bad breath. As mentioned above, saliva helps prevent
halitosis by cleansing the mouth of bacteria and food fragments. Xerostomia – the medical term for dryness of the mouth – can be the result of salivary gland problems, certain medications or continuous mouth breathing.
- Tobacco products – If you use any tobacco products, you’ve got another reason to quit. Cigarettes and chewing tobacco dry the mouth, causing bad breath.
- Dieting – A stringent dieting regimen can sometimes contribute to unpleasant breath. Chemicals known as ketones are exhaled through the lungs when the body burns fat, causing a distinctive smell.
- Dehydration, hunger, and missed meals – Dehydration and missed meals cause salivary flow to be suboptimal, and as a result, bacteria are not washed away as they would be with proper food and fluid intake.
- Certain medical conditions and illnesses – You may have one or more medical conditions that require you to make an extra effort to manage your breath odor. Diabetes, liver disease, kidney dysfunction,
chronic sinus infections, bronchitis, and pneumonia are several conditions that may contribute to bad breath.
What can I do to prevent bad breath?
- Practice good oral hygiene – Brush at least twice a day with an ADA-approved toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste. Floss daily to remove food debris and plaque from in between the teeth and under the gum line. Use a brush or a tongue scraper to clean the tongue and reach the back areas. Replace your toothbrush every 2 to 3 months. If you wear dentures or removable bridges, clean them thoroughly before placing them back in your mouth in the morning.
- See your dentist regularly – Get a check-up and cleaning at least twice a year. If you have periodontal disease or have experienced it in the past, you dentist may recommend more frequent visits.
- Stop smoking/chewing tobacco – Ask your dentist what he or she recommends to help you break the habit.
- Drink water frequently – Water keeps your mouth moist and washes away bacteria.
- Use mouthwash/rinses – Some over-the-counter products only provide a temporary solution to mask unpleasant mouth odor. Ask your dentist about antiseptic rinses that not only alleviate bad breath but also kill the germs causing the problem.
In most cases, bad breath can be treated. If your mouth appears healthy but your bad breath persists, your dentist may refer you to a physician to determine the cause of the odor and an appropriate treatment plan.