Things that our patients want to know
Bad breath (halitosis) is mainly caused by bacteria that ferment proteins and food debris. It can be an unpleasant and embarrassing condition. Many of us may not realize that we have bad breath, but everyone has it from time to time, especially in the morning.
To test your own breath, stick out your tongue wide and firmly lick you forearm with the back end of your tongue. Wait for a minute for it to dry and then smell your arm.
There are various reasons one may have bad breath, but in healthy people, the major reason is due to microbial deposits on the tongue, especially the back of the tongue. Some studies have shown that simply scraping the tongue with a special scraper reduced bad breath by as much as 70 percent.
What may cause bad breath?
- Morning time – Saliva flow almost stops during sleep and its reduced cleansing action allows bacteria to grow, causing bad breath.
- Certain foods – Garlic, onions, etc. Foods containing odor-causing compounds enter the blood stream; they are transferred to the lungs, where they are exhaled.
- Poor oral hygiene habits – Food particles remaining in the mouth promote bacterial growth.
- Periodontal (gum) disease – Colonies of bacteria and food debris residing under inflamed gums.
- Dental cavities and improperly fitted dental appliances – May also contribute to bad breath.
- Dry mouth (Xerostomia) – May be caused by certain medications, salivary gland problems, or continuous mouth breathing.
- Tobacco products – Dry the mouth, causing bad breath.
- Dieting – Certain chemicals called ketones are released in the breath as the body burns fat.
- Dehydration, hunger, and missed meals – Drinking water and chewing food increases saliva flow and washes bacteria away.
- Certain medical conditions and illnesses – Diabetes, liver and kidney problems, chronic sinus infections, bronchitis, and pneumonia are several conditions that may contribute to bad breath.
Keeping a record of what you eat may help identify the cause of bad breath. Also, discuss your current medications, recent surgeries, or illnesses with us. We shall try our best to improve this condition.
What can I do to prevent bad breath?
- Practice good oral hygiene – Brush at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and toothbrush. Floss daily to remove food debris and plaque from in between the teeth and under the gumline. Brush or use 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 and place them back in your mouth in the morning.
- Get a check-up and cleaning at least twice a year. If you have or have had periodontal disease, you may need more frequent visits.
- Stop smoking/chewing tobacco – We know this may not be easy. There is nothing good about tobacco!
- Drink water frequently – Water will help keep your mouth moist and wash away bacteria.
- Use non-alcohol containing mouthwash/rinses – Some over-the-counter products that contain alcohol only provide a temporary solution to mask unpleasant mouth odor. They dry out your mouth and may make things worse. Ask us about antiseptic rinses that not only alleviate bad breath, but also kill the germs that cause the problem.
In most cases, we can treat the oral cause of bad breath. If it is determined that your mouth is healthy, but bad breath is persistent, we may refer you to your physician to determine the cause of the odor and an appropriate treatment plan.
What can I do about bad breath?