Bad Breath: Causes and ways to prevent this embarrassing problem
One of the number one questions I get asked by patients is about the prevention of bad breath. It can be a source of embarrassment and anxiety for many people. For some patients, it is a question about lingering morning breath and for others it’s a chronic condition that they are constantly feeling self conscious about.
Halitosis can affect up to 25% of the population and so it is not surprising that millions are spent yearly on products to freshen our breath in hopes of keeping our mouths clean .
Poor oral hygiene is often the leading cause of bad breath, however in this article I will give some insight into other reasons as well . Of course replacing your toothbrush often, frequent dental professional cleanings with the hygienist, daily flossing and tongue scraping are the obvious first choices I would recommend . However , here are some other ideas to consider.
Causes and Solutions for Bad Breath
What you eat affects your breath.
Diets that are low in carbohydrates (ketone diets, specifically) cause bad breath because of the way your body burns fat as its main energy source. The end product is ketones, which causes an acetone-like odor on your breath.
Vegetables that are Alliums – like garlic and onions – commonly contribute to smelly breath because they contain high concentrations of sulfur compounds. Other foods such as strong spices (like curry), strong cheeses, fish, and coffee contribute to foul breath. This is because after these foods are digested, they filter into the bloodstream and into the lungs, where your breath is affected.
Solution: After a meal, brush and floss to get rid of any food particles that may be stuck to your teeth. Garlicky breath can stick around for up to 2 days, so don’t be surprised if you still smell garlic on your breath. Mouthwash and sugar-free gum can help freshen your breath and aid in rinsing away any residual food particles.
Our saliva is the superhero of the mouth. It washes away bacteria, preventing bad breath. Saliva is our mouths natural cleanser and protector . But if you suffer from xerostomia or dry mouth (usually from medication), you may experience bad breath as a result. Dry mouth is caused by a problem with salivary glands, which can be affected by certain medications and diseases. Medications used for blood pressure, autoimmune diseases, diuretics, depression and many other conditions can cause the salivary glands to not produce enough saliva, causing dry mouth.
Solution: Sipping on water throughout the day can work well to prevent dry mouth. Chewing sugar-free gum and sucking on sugar-free candy or lozenges between meals may also make a difference, because they stimulate your salivary glands. If you have chronic dry mouth, your dentist may recommend a saliva substitute. Biotene brand has a many over-the-counter rinses and saliva substitutes available at most pharmacies.
Medications due to some medical disorders contribute to dry mouth.
Some conditions that can cause bad breath are:
Periodontal infections – Gum disease & tooth decay are a common cause, and should be treated by a dental professional.
- Tonsillitis – Tonsillitis is caused by viruses or bacteria on your tonsils, which can become inflamed and infected, causing foul odours. In addition some people are prone to producing tonsillar stones in their tonsils if they are excessively cryptic and must have a professional remove these stones or learn how to remove them by themselves to prevent bad odours emitting from these stones.
- Respiratory infection – bacterial infections in the lung affect the air in your lungs that you exhale.
- Diabetes – Diabetes can cause your blood to have high levels of ketones causing an acetone like smell .
- Reflux – Reflux is the acidic regurgitation of stomach contents and causes heartburn and a sour or bitter taste in the mouth.
- Liver or Kidney disease – When your liver does not process chemical substances in your body properly, the odors do not get filtered properly and cause bad breath.
- Lactose intolerance – Lactose intolerance is the body’s inability to digest the sugars in milk. The undigested sugar microbes put off a sulfurous pungent odor that causes a foul smell on your breath.
Solution: If you have chronic bad breath and typical remedies like constant brushing, flossing, and products to freshen your breath do not work, it’s important to see your dentist to identify any underlying health concerns.
Smoking causes bad breath . I am sure this is a well understood fact by all. Smokers and oral tobacco users are more likely to experience gum diseases and are at an increased risk for tooth decay. Gum disease and tooth decay are both common factors in cases of halitosis. Smokers are also much more prone to oral cancers.
Solution: Talk to your dental or medical professional about smoking cessation solutions available. I know it’s hard but quitting is the best solution.
Poor Dental Hygiene
As plaque builds up on your teeth, it irritates the gums and causes inflammation and bleeding . Brushing properly for at least 2 minutes , 2-3 times a day with daily flossing is a minimum to prevent oral hygiene issues. In addition, your tongue is a breeding ground for bacteria. The back of the tongue has many grooves and crevices that trap bacteria and food particles. Using a tongue scraper is a very efficient tool to prevent bad breath.
Solution: Seeing your dentist regularly is important to having a clean mouth. But a professional cleaning only keeps plaque away for a short period of time. A good at-home oral routine is essential for maintaining clean teeth. Toothpaste has antibacterial properties, but it is extremely important that you have good brushing and flossing technique and that you remove all food and harmful bacteria from your teeth. As well as brushing, flossing helps remove any leftover particles that get stuck between your teeth. Using an antiseptic mouth rinse also helps reduce bacteria on the tongue and teeth. Water flossers such as waterpik are also very helpful to irrigate your entire mouth and keep everything clean.
I hope this overview had the readers thinking about ways to prevent halitosis , and feeling more comfortable approaching the subject with their dental professionals .