Bad Breath (Halitosis)

Whether you call it bad breath or halitosis, it’s an unpleasant condition that’s cause for embarrassment. Some people with bad breath aren’t even aware there’s a problem. If you’re concerned about bad breath, see your dentist. He or she can help identify the cause and, if it’s due to an oral condition, develop a treatment plan to help eliminate it.

What are the causes of bad breath?

There are a few different causes of bad breath. Ranging from stomach problems to diet and teeth problems, most of the causes can be found in the mouth. They are:

  1. Tongue, when bacteria grows in between the papilla
  2. Teeth cavities, especially when food particles get stuck in them
  3. Gum diseases
  4. Extraction sites during healing
  5. Dentures when not cleaned properly
  6. Alcohol and tobacco
  7. Dry mouth (xerostomia), which occurs when the flow of saliva decreases

What health problems are associated with bad breath?

Persistent bad breath may be a sign of periodontal (gum) disease. Periodontal disease is caused by plaque buildup on the teeth. The bacteria causes toxins to form, which irritate the gums and mouth. The medical condition dry mouth can also cause bad breath. Dry mouth may be caused by the side effects of various medications, salivary gland problems, or continuous breathing through the mouth.

Bad breath may be the sign of a medical disorder, such chronic sinusitis, postnasal drip, chronic bronchitis, diabetes, gastrointestinal disturbance, liver or kidney ailment. If your dentist determines that the cause is not oral, he or she may refer you to a doctor.

How can you prevent bad breath?

Smiling man brushing teethIdentifying the cause is the most important step and good oral hygiene will put you on the right path to eliminating bad breath. Brush twice a day (including your tongue) to remove food debris and plaque. Make sure to floss once a day to clean between teeth.

If your problem stems from dry mouth, consider chewing sugar-free gum to stimulate salivary flow. Mouthwashes are generally cosmetic and do not have a long-lasting effect on bad breath. If you must constantly use a breath freshener to hide unpleasant mouth odor, see your dentist. If you need extra help in controlling plaque, your dentist may recommend using a special antimicrobial mouth rinse.

Most importantly, make sure to schedule regular dental visits for a professional cleaning and checkup. If you think you have constant bad breath, keep a log of the foods you eat and make a list of medications you take. This will help your dentist determine whether the issue is localized to the mouth or a systemic condition. Your dentist can work with you to develop an individual treatment plan that will reduce odor.