By Dr. Joe D’Angelo and Dr. Ashley Olson
Have you ever asked yourself, “Is my breath fresh?”
Bad breath is embarrassing. In addition, it can be an indication of deteriorating oral health. When it comes to controlling bad breath, also known as halitosis, prevention through proper oral care is your first line of defense. There are other causes of bad breath that extend beyond oral hygiene, including diet, medications, and other health issues.
HOW IS BAD BREATH CAUSED?
BACTERIA:A common cause of bad breath is an accumulation of bacteria in the mouth. These microorganisms colonize on the tongue, teeth, and gums, and produce foul smelling volatile sulfur compounds (VSCs) that can cause offensive orders. It is important to brush and floss regularly to limit this buildup.
PERIODONTAL DISEASE:The presence of pockets, a hallmark of periodontal disease, provides isolated, hard to reach, protected areas for anaerobic bacterial growth. These areas can be very difficult to adequately clean at home. Identification of these areas and proper treatment by a dentist or dental hygienist is recommended on a regular basis.
VERY LOW CARB DIET:Eating a high protein, very low-carb diet can cause our bodies to burn fat instead of glucose for energy. This puts our bodies into a state called ketosis. When by-products of burning fat called keytones are released, some are expelled in our breath, causing it to smell. While this diet may be great for your waistline, it isn’t always the best for your social life.
DRY MOUTH:In our
previous column, dry mouth and the importance of proper oral care was discussed. Dry mouth, which can be caused by a variety of factors, can often lead to bad breath due to decreased salivary flow. Saliva cleanses our mouths and helps manage pH and bacteria levels in our oral cavity.
MEDICATION:Prescription medications can dry out the mouth, which can cause bad breath. Among the more likely types to cause problems are some of the drugs used to treat depression and anxiety, antihistamines, decongestants, high blood pressure medications, and muscle relaxants.
DENTURES AND BRIDGES:Dentures, like natural teeth, need proper care and maintenance. Both bridges and dentures can trap food particles & debris, causing bacteria to grow quickly on the surface. Bridges can be especially difficult to maintain. Keeping them clean is essential to avoid offensive odors.
BRACES: Similar to dentures and bridges, braces have plenty of crevices for food debris to hide. Flossing around braces can be time consuming, but it is crucial to get in the habit to help prevent bacterial growth, cavities, and gingivitis.
SMOKING:Besides the obvious concern of smelling like an ashtray, smokers are at an increased risk for gum disease and tooth decay. Smoking interferes with proper function of gum tissue cells, leaving smokers more susceptible to periodontal disease and infections. Cigarettes also leave chemicals like tar and nicotine in the mouth. These contribute to bacterial growth and dry mouth, which in-turn cause bad breath.
FOOD:It goes without saying that many foods can lead to bad breath including garlic, onions, dairy, spicy foods and coffee to name just a few. When food gets stuck in between the teeth, bacteria will quickly grow, leading to an increase in unpleasant aromas.
OTHER HEALTH PROBLEMS:Bad breath may also be a sign that you have a health problem, such as uncontrolled diabetes, respiratory tract infection, chronic bronchitis, chronic sinusitis, postnasal drip, gastrointestinal disturbance, liver or kidney problems.
HOW CAN I PREVENT BAD BREATH?
Treating bad breath depends on the cause, so be sure to speak to us for the right course of action for your specific problem. In some cases, management may be as simple as proper oral hygiene. Here’s how you can begin to take a stand against offensive odors.
BRUSH AND FLOSS REGULARLY:Given that poor oral hygiene is the leading cause of bad breath, now is the time to get into a routine of regular brushing and flossing. Brushing twice daily and flossing daily is imperative for keeping odor-causing bacteria at bay. Daily at-home maintenance of the mouth will significantly reduce your risk of gingivitis, periodontitis, decay, and bad breath.
VISIT A DENTIST REGULARLY:Regular visits to the dentist help ensure that your mouth is healthy. With the ongoing removal of tartar in the mouth, bacteria can be significantly reduced.
ORAL RINSES:Some oral rinses are designed to control bacteria growth, and others are designed to neutralize sulfur compounds. Over-the-counter rinses such as Scope or Listerine may be helpful. Fluoride rinses help control bacterial growth, and rinses such as OraCare can help control bacteria as well as neutralize odor-causing VSCs.
SCRAPE YOUR TONGUE:The surface of the tongue is an excellent breeding ground for different bacteria. Decaying bacteria on the rear of the tongue produce sulfur compounds. Weather you use a tongue scraper or a toothbrush, get in the habit of cleaning your tongue every time you brush your teeth.
QUIT SMOKING:Above all, cigarettes are detrimental to your health and can lead to a host of additional health problems in addition to bad breath. Quit today!
DRINK PLENTY OF WATER:When the mouth is well hydrated and saliva flow is sufficient, bacteria growth is minimized until the next brushing. Don’t rely solely on mouthwash – sometimes an increase in water can be all your body needs to overcome bad breath.
DISCUSS MEDS WITH YOUR DOCTOR:If medication is the primary cause of bad breath, discuss your medications with your doctor to find an appropriate substitute or alternative course of action. We work closely with physicians to help find an acceptable solution.
INVISALIGN: Whereas braces can trap food debris and are difficult to keep clean, Invisalign offers an alternative for the correction of orthodontic problems and crowding in many cases. These clear, effective, and nearly invisible trays can be easily removed for proper hygiene.
IMPLANTS:Implants offer the most natural alternative to tooth replacement. Flossing and brushing around implants is not compromised as it is with bridges.
If you’re one of the many individuals affected by bad breath, come visit our office in La Jolla for a checkup. Give us a call at 858 459-6224 or visit us at