Bad breath (halitosis), while an unpleasant and often embarrassing condition, is usually avoidable and treatable. It can be caused by improper dental hygiene, lifestyle or a dental condition.
Maintaining good oral health – at home as well as through regular cleanings and dental checkups – is essential to reducing bad breath. Brushing and flossing daily is critical because food particles which remain in the mouth collect bacteria, which in turn cause bad breath. Without putting too fine a point on it, food that collects between the teeth, on the tongue and around the gums can rot, leaving an unpleasant odor. Brush twice a day with fluoride toothpaste to remove food debris and plaque and brush your tongue as well. Use floss or an inter-dental cleaner once a day to clean between teeth. For our patients who need extra help in controlling plaque, we often recommend using a special antimicrobial mouth rinse.
Bad breath can also be a by-product of what you eat (such as onions or garlic); foods that have a strong odor convey that odor through the air we exhale as they are being digested and eliminated by the body. Even if you do brush, floss and use mouthwash, this only masks the odor temporarily until the food is eliminated. Tobacco products also cause bad breath. If you use tobacco, come to us for tips on kicking the habit.
Dry mouth (xerostomia), a decrease in saliva flow, is a condition which can cause halitosis (more details follow below). One of the jobs of saliva is to cleanse the mouth and remove particles that may cause odor, so a decrease in saliva flow becomes a problem. Dry mouth may be caused by various medications, salivary gland problems or continuously breathing through the mouth. If you suffer from dry mouth, we may prescribe artificial saliva or suggest you suck on sugarless candy to induce saliva flow and increase your fluid intake.
There are many medical disorders that can affect your breath such as a respiratory tract infection, chronic sinusitis, postnasal drip, chronic bronchitis, diabetes, gastrointestinal disturbance, and liver or kidney ailment. If an exam reveals that your mouth is healthy, we might refer you to your family doctor or a specialist to determine the cause of bad breath.
If you think you have constant bad breath, keep a log of the foods you eat and make a list of medications you take (some medications may play a role in creating mouth odors). Tell us if you've had any surgery or illness since your last appointment. If you find you are constantly using a breath freshener to hide unpleasant mouth odor, come see us for an examination, as this could signal an underlying medical or dental condition of which halitosis is a major symptom.