In an earlier blog post The Battle Against Bad Breath, I talked primarily about food and poor oral hygiene as the culprits. Someone asked for more detail about bad breath causes and what can be done about it, so I’m providing a more in-depth answer this time, including some causes that must be treated by other medical professionals. Causes of halitosis (the medical term for bad breath) can be:
• Food – Spicy foods, such as those containing onion and garlic, can’t really be covered up with tooth brushing, flossing, and rinsing with mouthwash after the meal. Those measures only help to a degree. That’s because many foods stay in the body for 72 hours or more, are absorbed by other body tissues, and continue to make their presence known on the breath. Believe it or not, garlic rubbed on the soles of your feet can eventually show up on your breath! Even coffee can often be smelled on the breath days after you drink it.
Even if you avoid the types of food that leave lingering breath odor, foods with little or no odor can also be a major cause of bad breath. Aside from causing tooth decay, any food particles left behind by poor oral hygiene begin decaying and can produce bacteria that cause bad breath odors. To help ensure that this isn’t your problem, your oral hygiene regimen may need to include brushing not only the teeth, but also the tongue, gums, and roof of your mouth – any place that food and beverage residue can become trapped. Saliva is nature’s way of trying to wash away food particles in the mouth. So, if your mouth tends to be dry for some reason, you may need to be even more attentive to your oral hygiene and food particle removal than most other people.
• Common oral diseases – I’ve mentioned dry mouth (xerostomia) as one condition that can lead to halitosis. Certain medications, radiation treatments, or even skipping meals can all be causes of a dry mouth condition.
Periodontal (gum) disease is another cause of bad breath. In periodontal disease, plaque – a sticky film of bacteria that forms on your teeth – can build up and cause gum irritation that results in inflammation, receding gums, and even damage to underlying bone tissue. Good oral hygiene, rinsing with anti-bacterial mouthwashes, and regular dental exams and cleanings are the best defenses against periodontal disease.
There are some special dental products, such as CloSYS, that are especially effective at combating the sulfonamides that develop from bacterial growth in the mouth. A reputable comprehensive dentistry provider can help you bring these dental conditions and diseases under control, and also help you decide what dental hygiene products and procedures you can use at home to manage or avoid the disease.
• ENT infections – Ear, nose, throat, and sinus (ENT) infections, because of their close proximity to the mouth, can be another cause of bad breath. These should generally create only a short-term problem, clearing up when the infection does. However, some conditions, such as sinusitis and bronchitis, can be chronic and result in a persistent problem with bad breath until the condition is alleviated. Talk with your dentist about any problem with bad breath that you are experiencing. By discussing the problem during your regular check-up, you and your dentist may be able to more quickly pinpoint the most likely cause, and you can see a medical professional if an ENT infection seems to be the culprit.
• Problems with major organs – There’s a natural tendency for all of us to assume that bad breath is caused by something in or in close proximity to the mouth. When we’ve eliminated some of the other causes discussed above, it’s important to consider other causes, such as problems with other body organs. Issues with lungs, liver, stomach, and kidneys can all result in an outgassing of bacteria or other abnormal by-products that are vented from the body on your breath.
A comprehensive dentistry provider is your first line of defense in both identifying and treating oral health issues, and can point you to other medical professionals who may need to be involved. Don’t be afraid to ask if you have a concern – tens of millions of people share this problem. If the source of the problem isn’t obvious to your dentist during a regular check-up, he may ask you to return for a follow-up to further discuss and evaluate the problem. It is only logical to start by assessing the oral health possibilities because dentists receive special training on the potential causes of halitosis.