We’ve all woken up with bad breath. And most of us pack some breath mints or sugar-free gum to use after a meal laced with garlic and onions. In a way, having bad breath from time to time is universal. But bad breath can be a little more problematic than short-term unpleasant odors from aromatic foods. Persistent bad breath might be an indicator of poor oral hygiene or an oral health condition.
Halitosis—the clinical term for bad breath—can be short-term or more chronic. The causes and solutions to bad breath might surprise you. If you’ve ever wondered what’s behind bad breath and how to combat it, keep reading for little-known facts about halitosis.
Causes of Bad Breath
Many people equate halitosis with eating certain foods like onions and garlic. While aromatic foods can give your breath a distinct odor, it’s actually short lived. This is because once our bodies process foods that cause bad breath, the odor stops.
It probably goes without saying that tobacco use contributes to unpleasant breath. There’s abundant reasons to quit smoking and preventing bad breath is only one of them.
Even though its common to have short-term bad breath from food from time to time, the real cause of bad breath is normally the bacteria in your mouth.
Our mouths are home to millions of bacteria. Some are “good” bacteria and many other strains are bad bacteria. Bad bacteria contribute to bad breath, infections, and some are cariogenic—which means they contribute to tooth decay. Bacteria feed on sugar molecules in the food we consume. As bacteria feed, they colonize. They also produce acids as by-products. These acids affect the oral pH in our mouths, another factor that can contribute to the development of more bacteria and subsequently, bad breath.
Another culprit behind halitosis is oral infections. If you have gum disease or thrush (a fungal infection) you could have some serious oral odors. This is because the bacteria in your mouth are infecting oral tissue. For instance, gum disease is incredibly destructive to your teeth, gums, and bone. As this tissue becomes infected and as bacteria colonizes, a pretty unpleasant smell could be emanating from your mouth.
If you have prosthetics like bridges and dentures or wear orthodontic appliances, bacterial-related halitosis can be especially pesky to you. Food and debris lodged under or around prosthetics and orthodontia are ripe for bacterial feeding.
Home Remedies for Bad Breath
Feeding bacteria with sugary and starchy foods can make halitosis worse—especially if you’re not practicing thorough oral hygiene. Consider making changes to your diet so that you can starve stinky (and harmful) oral bacteria.
Oral hygiene is essential for keeping unpleasant odors at bay. Not only will you protect your teeth and gums from disease, a meticulous oral hygiene regimen will help eliminate halitosis. For optimal health and pleasant breath, consider the following oral hygiene tips:
- Brush twice a day for two minutes each time
- Floss every day
- Brush soft oral tissues including the roof of your mouth, the linings of cheeks, your gums, and your tongue (most oral bacteria accumulates on your tongue!)
- Change your toothbrush or brush heads every three months (four times a year)
- Use oral hygiene tools with the American Dental Association’s seal of acceptance for maximum efficacy and safety
If you wear orthodontic appliances or have prosthetics like bridges or dentures, be sure to clean them thoroughly with oral hygiene tools and soaking (when recommended). Keeping the surfaces of prosthetics and orthodontia clean is imperative for fresh breath.
Addressing Halitosis with Professional Treatment
Improving your oral hygiene routine and reducing sugar consumption will likely improve most recurring halitosis but if it doesn’t, then you should make an appointment with your dentist. A checkup could reveal if an oral health condition like tooth decay or periodontal disease is the cause of your bad breath.
Treating halitosis professionally might involve a deep dental cleaning that removes surface debris above and below the gums. It might also involve treating undiagnosed tooth decay with restorations or removing diseased teeth.
If your dentist rules out common oral health conditions, you might need to see your primary care physician as persistent halitosis could be a sign of kidney and liver issues, diabetes, and sinus problems.
Our Lafayette, LA dentist treats a number of oral health concerns including bad breath, tooth decay, and gum disease. If you have questions or would like to schedule a checkup, call our practice at your convenience.