Have you ever noticed a horrible, not so fresh, feeling or taste in your mouth? The number of adults who experience halitosis, more commonly known as bad breath, at some point in their life is 50% according to the American Dental Association. In most cases bad breath is due to poor oral hygiene as well as a few other outside contributing factors, but it can be a sign of something more serious. The outside contributing factors include; Bacteria, Food and Beverage, Dry Mouth, Medications, and Smoking/ Tobacco products.
There are many natural bacteria that live in our mouths. When food is not properly removed from your oral cavity it breaks down increasing bacteria levels, causing the foul odor. There are certain foods which are naturally more potent to your breath as they get into your lungs and blood stream and linger in your exhale until they are completely expelled from your body; this includes onion, garlic, spices, coffee and alcohol.
Dry mouth (xerostomia) happens in those who do not produce enough saliva. Salivary flow is important because it’s what is responsible for continually washing food and bacteria particles out of your mouth. Some people also experience dry mouth from; sleeping with their mouths open, mouth breathers, problems with salivary glands, and from medications. Many of my patients get relief from Act Fluoride Rinse – Dry Mouth as well as ACT Dry Mouth Spray and Lozenges. If you have dry mouth make sure you keep the saliva flowing the best you can with an increase in water consumption, you can also try healthy foods in the morning that stimulate your saliva with lots of chewing (carrots, apples). Additional stimulants for salivary flow are chewing sugar free gum and sucking on sugar free candies.
There are many medications that have dry mouth as a common dental side effect, be sure to discuss this with your dentist and see what products they recommend for you. A few other medical conditions that can contribute to bad breath are; mouth infections, sinus infections, post nasal drip, acid reflux, diabetes, and some liver and kidney diseases.
Smoking and Tobacco, the habit many people struggle to quit. We all know smoking is not good for you and affects your entire body, including your oral cavity. It stains your teeth, irritates your gums, reduces your sense of taste, and causes bad breath. Most smokers are not usually aware of their bad breath as smoking affects their sense of smell. If you’re a smoker and trying to quit smoking- good for you, and keep up the good work! You are going to have better breath and an overall better quality of life. For those still smoking, I know it’s a hard habit to give up but try, not only for yourself but your loved ones.
How can you fight bad breath? Most importantly have good oral hygiene. This includes making sure your brushing twice a day and cleaning between your teeth (floss or waterflosser) to remove all the bacteria causing your bad breath. Next, be sure to brush your tongue daily, if you stick your tongue out and notice a white or brown coating that is all bad breath bacteria lingering on your tongue. Mouthrinse can be used after eating to help kill bacteria or neutralize them to help mask bad breath until you are able to brush and floss. Mouthrinse can also be used as part of your daily oral hygiene routine to decrease bacteria levels. A few rinses I recommend are Act Flouride Rinse, Closys rinse (see blog post from September 22, 2017) and Listerine for certain patients who do not suffer from dry mouth or smoke.
If you have dentures, you can get mouth sores and suffer from bad breath as well. So remember to remove your dentures at night, rinse thoroughly and clean them before using them the next morning so food and bacteria are not trapped underneath. You should also visit the dentist for yearly oral screenings to evaluate your tissues and your dentures.
If you’re concerned about bad breath make an appointment to visit your dentist. Inform them of the symptoms you are having and the products you are using. If they feel that everything clinically is healthy they may refer you to your primary care physician.