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Your Breath Stinks!


Have you ever had a conversation with someone and needed to back away due to their bad breath? Or worse yet, have you ever felt your own breath wasn’t so fresh? You aren’t alone. According to the American Dental Association, up to 50 percent of adults have bad breath, also known as halitosis, during their lives.

So what causes bad breath? There are many causes: from the simple and harmless to those that can be a sign of something more serious.

What you eat, drink and intake through your mouth affects your breath. Common contributors include garlic, onions, and coffee along with a long list of other offending foods. According to the Academy of General Dentistry, these can be detected on your breath for up to 72 hours after you consume them. Special diets that eliminate carbohydrates also increase your risk for bad breath.

Smoking and tobacco use often leads to bad breath. Users typically have a decreased ability to taste and smell and therefore are less likely to realize they have a problem.

Bacteria of the gums and tongue can cause bad breath. The mouth is full of many bacteria that consume the food that you do and produce a waste product that is foul smelling. In a healthy mouth, the combination of adequate saliva and good oral hygiene are enough to keep the bacteria counts low enough to prevent bad breath. Situations where bad breath occurs often relate to one of the causes described in the following paragraphs.

Bad breath can be a sign of advancing gum disease (periodontal disease). This is when the bacteria below the gums are aggressive in causing damage to the gums and bone that support the teeth. The waste product of these bacteria can cause an unpleasant odor.

Dry mouth (the lack of saliva) increases bad breath due to the saliva not being sufficient to remove bacteria or the stinky waste products. Dry mouth is also related to gum disease and an increase in cavities.

Severe medical conditions can also contribute to bad breath. These conditions include sinus problems, gastric reflux, infections, diabetes, kidney failure and liver malfunction. If you have bad breath, your dentist has ruled out gum disease and you have meticulous oral hygiene with regular brushing and flossing, then there is a chance it is from one of these conditions.

What to do about bad breath? The first step is good oral hygiene. Brush and floss twice daily to reduce the bacteria that cause bad breath. Clean your tongue. Most people don’t have a habit of cleaning the tongue but it harbors many bad breath causing bacteria. If you stick your tongue out there is often a coating that is full of bacteria that a toothbrush is not able to remove. Tongue scrapers are the most effective method to clean the tongue.

Mouthwash can help decrease bacteria as well, but for those who have severe dry mouth the typical mouthwashes won’t be effective. There are a few available that are specially made for bad breath.

For those who have dentures, retainers or any other oral appliance it is critical to clean it well before placing it back in your mouth to decrease the growth of bacteria.

The next one is quite obvious; if you smoke, vape or use tobacco products – quit! It isn’t that easy to do, but please investigate the resources available at Quitline Iowa or your healthcare professional for help.

For those who have dry mouth, there are many products available to substitute saliva or increase saliva production. This can help remove bad breath causing bacteria. Chewing sugar-free gum or sucking on sugar-free candies also stimulates saliva.

Finally, visit your dentist and dental hygienist for regular checkups and cleanings. They can detect problems such as gum disease and recommend proper treatment. The hygienist is critical in removing the plaque and tarter which harbor bad breath causing bacteria. If they are unable to find the source they may refer you to primary care doctor.

Article written by Dr. Joiner to publish in the Orange City Capitol Democrat June 28, 2018


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Joiner and Zwart Dentistry
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