According to studies, fifty percent of the population has bad breath. If you had bad breath, would anyone tell you?
Unfortunately, one of the most taboo subjects in our society and among couples and friends is bad breath. No one wants it. No one wants to be around it or kiss it, and yet no one wants to tell anyone they have it. The fear of bad breath is so great that some people suffer from a phobia called halitophobia. At some time all of us have had bad breath, whether it is “morning breath” or “onion breath.” The following will describe the different types of bad breath and treatments for each kind.
Bad Breath from Food
If you do not like the smell of onions or garlic on your breath, don’t eat onions or garlic. Eating garlic or onions may have some wonderful health benefits, but you are going to have garlic/onion breath. Garlic and onion are absorbed through the skin and exhaled from the lungs. Masking with mouthwashes and gum can help, but if the smell is in your bloodstream it is only temporary.
Nutritional supplements are another example of a smell that lingers. In the dental office we can often tell which patients have been taking fish oil supplements because their breath smells fishy.
Cinnamon has been shown to be the best at masking offensive odors and also has an antibacterial action. Good oral hygiene can help to get the offensive food particles from in between the teeth. So remember, you are what you eat!
Bad Breath from Systemic Disease
Approximately ten percent of bad breath is caused by systemic or metabolic diseases. These diseases create distinctive breath smells due to the chemicals diseases produce. Diabetes, kidney failure and liver failure can cause a distinctive fishy smell. A fruity breath is associated with ketone bodies released from uncontrolled diabetes. If you are unable to resolve bad breath due to systemic diseases, you might want to visit a physician.
Bad Breath from Poor Oral Hygiene
A more common source of bad breath is simply poor oral hygiene. Food and bacteria that are not cleaned adequately from the teeth is like leaving food overnight on the kitchen counter in a warm pot – it simply rots and smells. Flossing and brushing aren’t just to prevent cavities; they help to prevent this kind of bad breath. Patients with periodontal disease and deep pockets around their teeth provide perfect places for the food and bacteria to lodge creating bad breath. This kind of bacteria does not like oxygen, so the deep pockets around the teeth created by periodontal disease provide a perfect environment for the production of bad breath.
Improved oral hygiene and regular professional cleanings are the most effective way to prevent this type of bad breath. This is our specialty and we work hard to help our patients maintain their oral health and fresh breath with proper tooth brushing and flossing techniques. By working together as a team to teach and provide you the tools to help achieve and maintain good oral health, we can stop bad breath and prevent dental problems.
Bad Breath from Tonsils
Tonsillar bad breath is created when calcium deposits get caught in the tonsillar folds at the back of your throat. You cannot see them as they are hidden in the folds. They are usually discovered when you cough or hack up white deposits that look like milk curds and have a putrid smell. They seem to be related to dairy products, sugar, dry mouth, and post nasal drip.
Treating the postnasal drip and using warm salt water rinses to flush the tonsils can help to prevent this source of bad breath. Some mouthwash and oral hygiene systems claim also to prevent the deposits from developing. I do not know how but some people even manage to brush their tonsils without gagging and throwing up. One more trick is to try gargling. Gargling will also help remove these deposits that can cause bad breath.
Bad Breath from Dry Mouth
Morning breath created by a dry mouth, perhaps from a night out on the town drinking is created by a lack of saliva (alcohol is dehydrating). Saliva serves many purposes but one of its most important functions is to help purge the food debris from in between the teeth. As we have mentioned previously, food decaying between the teeth releases gases that no one wants to smell. In addition the saliva contains antibodies which seem to help stop the bacteria from getting organized.
Dry mouth bad breath can also be created by some autoimmune diseases. Many medications used to treat high blood pressure, pain, and anxiety also dry out the mouth.
Drinking water is helpful to combat dry mouth. Chewing gum can help to stimulate salivary flow. We recommend gum containing xylitol because xylitol makes it difficult for bacteria to produce acid and decay, which can be a significant problem for those with reduced saliva. Special mouthwashes, lozenges, and pastes made by Biotene® are available to ease the symptoms as well.
Bad Breath from the Tongue
We have saved the worst, most chronic and most common source of bad breath for last. We have all smelled it, that putrid breath you can smell from five feet away. Up close you do not even want to have a conversation with this person because their breath will be directed at you. My biggest nightmare is to be stuck on a long plane flight seated next to a person with this kind of breath. I often wonder, doesn’t this person smell it themselves, or why hasn’t someone told them? Unfortunately it seems that people’s sense of smell accommodates to the smell of their breath, and, as previously mentioned, the subject of bad breath is a sensitive one – even in the dental office.
The good news is that this type of bad breath is treatable if you simply treat the source: the tongue. The actual cause of the smell is bacteria that metabolize the dead cells and food found in the crevices on the tongue and produce a gas containing sulfur, the same element that gives rotten eggs their wonderful smell. We can disrupt the bacteria and remove the dead cells and food by cleaning the surface of the tongue with a tongue scraper or a toothbrush. In fact, if you stick your tongue out and see that it is coated, you have a higher chance of having bad breath.
Using chemicals to clean the crevices and to disrupt the bacteria may help to mask the odor. Several chemicals, including stannous fluoride and xylitol, are found in many types of toothpaste and mouthwashes and have been shown to reduce the bacteria. In addition, chlorine dioxide in a water pick also seems to reduce the bacteria and mouth odor. A prescription mouthwash like Peridex™ can also help.
So don’t despair. Bad breath is preventable and treatable. And be a good friend. Let those you know and love if they are suffering from bad breath. They will be glad that you did! By becoming educated about oral health, you can achieve a healthier you.
Get Rid of Bad Breath
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