We’ve all been there: you’ve eaten some garlic bread or you have a dry mouth, and you realize that your breath isn’t as fresh as it should be. But there’s a big difference between the occasional bad breath that everyone experiences, and the misfortune of having chronic bad breath. Equipping purses and lunchboxes with mouthwash doesn’t easily resolve chronic bad breath, also known as halitosis. Bad breath affects an estimated 25 percent of people, globally. So, what is halitosis and how can you and your family cope? Here are a few tips.
What is Halitosis?
Halitosis is a condition in which a person emanates an unattractive odor from their mouth. The everyday “morning breath” most people wake up with is not halitosis. Neither is the five minutes of bad breath you’ll experience after eating the occasional spice-heavy exotic meal. True halitosis is a persistent smell that does not go away after brushing, flossing and rinsing. It can be demoralizing and embarrassing, but it’s also fairly common, and thus, quite treatable.
What Causes Halitosis?
Halitosis has a range of causes, some of which are pretty serious. Here are some of the most common offenders:
- Food particles. Foods such as garlic, onion and other strong-smelling meal ingredients can leave particles behind in your mouth and on your tongue, resulting in an unpleasant post-lunch odor. Luckily, it’s easily treated and not a chronic cause of halitosis.
- Dry mouth. Medications, smoking and mouth breathing can contribute to having a dry mouth. This lack of saliva means bacteria isn’t being rinsed out of the mouth as well as it should, and this can lead to bad breath. Occasional dry mouth isn’t a cause for concern, but your bad breath could become chronic as a side effect of daily smoking.
- Dental hygiene: Brushing and flossing ensure the removal of small particles of food that can build up and slowly break down, producing odor. A film of bacteria called plaque builds up if brushing is not regular. This is part of the reason brushing is so important. Dentures that are not cleaned regularly or properly can also harbor bacteria that cause halitosis.
- Dental problems. Halitosis is often the result of gum disease and tooth decay. Dental issues can encourage bacteria to hide in cavities or pockets around the gums caused by conditions such as gingivitis and periodontal disease. Short-term breath freshening methods might mask the problem, but the smell can remain when the core issues go unchecked.
Medical issues. Some viruses and illnesses, particularly those that affect the sinuses, nasal passages and throat, can result in halitosis. These illnesses can lead to postnasal drip which may also contribute to bad breath. Bacteria feeds on mucus your body produces when it’s battling something like a sinus infection, leaving you sniffly and stinky. Children with offensive breath might have a cold or sinus infection. Bad breath can also be a sign of some liver and kidney diseases.
What Can I Do to Prevent Halitosis?
Bad breath can be reduced or prevented if you:
- Brush with fluoride toothpaste to remove food debris and plaque. Brush your teeth after you eat (keep a toothbrush at work or school to brush after lunch). Don’t forget to brush the tongue, too. Replace your toothbrush every 2 to 3 months or after an illness. Use floss to remove food particles and plaque between teeth once a day. Rinse with an antibacterial mouthwash twice a day. Dentures should be removed at night and cleaned thoroughly before being placed in your mouth the next morning.
- See your dentist regularly — at least twice a year. He or she will conduct an oral exam and professional teeth cleaning and will be able to detect and treat periodontal disease, dry mouth, or other problems that may be the cause of bad mouth odor.
- Stop smoking and chewing tobacco-based products. Ask your dentist for tips on kicking the habit.
- Drink lots of water. This will keep your mouth moist. Chewing gum (preferably sugarless) or sucking on candy (preferably sugarless) also stimulates the production of saliva, which helps wash away food particles and bacteria. Gums and mints containing xylitol are best.
- Keep a log of the foods you eat. If you think they may be causing bad breath, bring the log to your dentist to review. Similarly, make a list of the medications you take. Some drugs may play a role in creating mouth odors.
Who treats bad breath halitosis?
In most cases, your dentist can treat the cause of bad breath. If your dentist determines that your mouth is healthy and the odor is not of oral origin, you may be referred to your family doctor or to a specialist to determine the odor source and treatment plan. If the odor is due to gum disease, for example, your dentist can either treat the disease or refer you to a periodontist, a dentist who specializes in treating gum conditions.
If you have any questions about halitosis, call Winning Smiles to schedule an appointment with your dentist – 716-332-2444.