Bad. Breath. We’ve all noticed it, probably more in others that in ourselves– which can be part of the problem. It can be unpleasant and embarrassing for all involved, but what causes the offensive odor? And what to do about it?
There are a number of reasons people develop bad breath, but in most people who are healthy, the usual culprit is a buildup of bacteria on the tongue, especially on the back of the tongue. Here are some reasons those pesky microbes build up.
What Causes Bad Breath?
Sleeping – No, not really sleeping, but what happens while you sleep. Your mouth gets dry as saliva flow almost stops during the night, and even more so if you breathe through your mouth (may be aka: snoring). Without saliva to clean the mouth, bacteria builds up and gives rise to “morning breath”.
Foods – Onions, garlic and certain other foods contain odor-causing compounds that enter your bloodstream, travel to the lungs as your blood flows for oxygenation, and are off-loaded into the air when you exhale.
Poor oral hygiene habits – Particles of food left behind after you eat start to decompose, serving as a great growing environment for bacteria.
Periodontal (gum) disease – Gums that are inflamed puff up and form pockets around your teeth, which being dark, warm and moist, are perfect for growing bacteria.
Dental cavities – See this blog post for more about how cavities cause bad breath.
Improperly fitted dental appliances – Mouth guards, dentures and partials can leave space between the gums and the appliance that are warm, moist and dark – again the perfect recipe for bacteria.
Dry mouth – A side effect of certain medications, salivary gland problems or continuous mouth breathing that decreases the flow of saliva to clean the mouth, causing bacteria to build up. Read another post about the causes of dry mouth.
Tobacco products – Smoking causes dry mouth, and also has a smokers bad breath smell all its own.
Dieting – Changes in your metabolism as your body burns fat releases ketones that cause bad breath.
Dehydration and missed meals – Drinking water and the act of chewing stimulate the flow of saliva to wash bacteria away (which is one of the reasons chewing sugar-free gum may help).
Certain medical conditions and illnesses – Diabetes, liver and kidney problems, sinus infections, bronchitis and pneumonia are some of the medical causes of bad breath.
What You Can Do About Bad Breath
You may want to keep track of what you’re eating to help you find the cause specific to your problem. Also, review any medications that you may be using to see if dry mouth is a side-effect. Discuss any illnesses or conditions with your dentist. Some studies have shown that simply brushing your tongue (especially the back) or using a tongue scrapper can reduce your bad breath by up to 70%. But what else can you do?
Make sure your oral hygiene habits are top notch – Ideally brush after every meal but at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste on your toothbrush. Replace your brush every 2-3 months as it wears out. Floss at least once a day to remove food debris, especially before bed. Use a tongue scrapper to clean your WHOLE tongue, perfect before bedtime and in the morning. (Just scraping your tongue can reduce coffee-breath).
Clean your appliances – If you wear complete or partial dentures, take them out at night, rinse your mouth and clean and soak your denture overnight. Clean night guards as directed by your dentist. Additionally, take your appliances with you to the dentist office for periodic ultrasonic cleaning.
Have professional dental checkups and cleanings – Your dental hygiene professional will do a superb job of cleaning your teeth and around any gum pockets, removing any build-up of bacteria. Ask your hygienist to review your brushing technique. If your mouth is healthy you’ll still benefit from cleanings every 4-6 months; if you have gum disease bacteria start to build up in gum pockets in only 3 months, which is why frequency matters. Just go.
Stop using tobacco products – Your mouth and body will thank you, not to mention your family, friends and co-workers. Ask your dentist or physician to help you quit the habit.
Drink water – Water keeps your mouth moist and helps clear away bacteria.
Use a mouth rinse – Find one that kills bacteria. Decide if you want a rinse that has alcohol as a base, which can also sometimes be drying, or one without. Try samples first to see what works best for you.
Talk to your dentist or hygienist about bad breath and bad breath treatment – they’re really not embarrassed and they know a lot about it! They’ll help you explore the possible causes and find a solution, or refer you to your physician if there may be a medical basis to the problem. If you’d like help, call us! Sweet!