Having bad breath can be embarrassing and affects how comfortable you feel around others. Sometimes you may not even know you have bad breath and once you discover it, it may be difficult to determine the cause. You may become extra conscious of your breath and use mints or gum to cover it up. But that doesn’t provide a lasting solution.
One thing that may surprise those who suffer from bad breath is that your dentist can help uncover the root cause of your bad breath so it can be treated. For most people, a simple solution will usually do the trick!
Cause of Bad Breath
Bad breath is caused by a build up of odour causing bacteria in your mouth which release sulfur compounds that make your breath smell. The source of the bacteria build up may not be as simple to determine though because there are several potential causes.
1. Gum Disease
Periodontal disease, more commonly referred to as gum disease, is an infection of the gum tissue. The infection in your gum tissue causes small pockets to form around the teeth. These small pockets act as craters for bacteria, food particles and odours to reside, and it is almost impossible to clean them out without professional help. This can result in chronic bad breath that is difficult to treat on your own.
2. Plaque and Tartar Buildup
When plaque and tartar build up on your teeth, it can be another cause of bad breath. Even if you brush and floss daily, plaque can still harden on different surfaces of your teeth and is impossible to remove without the help of a hygienist. This hardened plaque and tartar not only causes bad breath but can also cause gum and bone loss or cavities.
3. Old Restorations or Appliances
Older restorations or appliances can also be the cause of bad breath. An older bridge or dental crown can begin to loosen, causing bacteria and odours to reside underneath the restoration. Old dentures or partials may begin to have odours that are impossible to remove with just soaking and cleaning alone.
4. Poor Oral Hygiene Habits
The most common (and easy to correct) cause of bad breath is poor oral hygiene habits, specifically not flossing. Bacteria and food particles can get stuck between teeth, causing severe bad breath and even tooth decay.
There are also some cases where oral hygiene is difficult to maintain such as having braces. It is more challenging to keep your mouth clean when you have braces because food and bacteria have more places to hide.
5. Tooth Decay
Tooth decay can also be the culprit of bad breath. Cavities are caused by bacteria build up and once it has eroded your enamel and begun causing decay, it can certainly affect your breath as well.
While less common, oral cancer can cause persistent bad breath and bad breath in throat areas behind the mouth. There are many other marked signs of oral cancer, like lesions and lumps within the mouth as well as constant oral pain and tongue numbness.
Bad breath can also be caused by a sinus infection, lung disease, chronic acid reflux, kidney disorders and diabetes. Talk to your dentist if you have any of these conditions or concerns as bad breath caused by these may need to be addressed differently.
It’s important to note that most cases of bad breath are not related to chronic conditions and are typically caused by other problems like gum disease, poor oral hygiene habits or tooth decay. In the case that a root cause cannot be found within your mouth, your dentist may recommend additional screening tests.
How Your Dentist Can Help
If you find yourself experiencing persistent bad breath, your dentist is an excellent ally in helping you to determine the culprit and get rid of bad breath for good.
Here are some ways your dentist can help:
- Diagnosing gum disease and providing a treatment plan, as well as tips and resources to help heal it.
- Provide an anti-bacterial rinse such a CTx to help remove bacteria from your mouth.
- A dental cleaning will remove plaque and tartar build up which helps to reduce bad breath.
- Offer advice on daily dental hygiene practices that may reduce or eliminate bad breath.
- Determine if you need to replace older appliances that may be introducing bacteria into your mouth.
- Check old restorations for potential bacterial build up.
- Product recommendations like special toothbrushes, flossing devices, toothpaste and mouth rinses to help keep your mouth clean and fresh when you have braces.
- Remove any decay by replacing it with a dental filling, root canal or extracting the tooth.
- Screen for signs of oral cancer.
Things You Can Do On Your Own
1. Brush and floss more often.
Brush your teeth at least two times each day, and floss at least once, preferably in the evening. Removing plaque and food particles is the simplest way to improve your breath by removing as many opportunities for bacteria to build up as possible.
You can also check out these Oral Hygiene Tips You May Not Know.
2. Rinse your mouth out.
Besides freshening your breath, a non acidic mouth rinse adds extra protection by getting rid of bacteria. Be sure the rinse you choose (we recommend CTx or TheraBreath) actually kills the germs that cause bad breath, not just covering up the smell.
You can also help your breath if you swish your mouth with water after you eat. It can get rid of food particles that get stuck in your teeth.
3. Scrape your tongue
The coating that normally forms on your tongue can be a host for bacteria. To get rid of them, gently brush your tongue with your toothbrush.
If your brush is too big to comfortably reach the back of your tongue, try a scraper. By applying even pressure across the surface of the tongue area, you remove bacteria, food debris and dead cells that brushing alone can’t take care of.
4. Avoid foods that create bad breath
Food such as onions and garlic can cause bad breath. And brushing after you eat them doesn’t help because the substances that cause the smells actually enter your bloodstream and are exhaled through the lungs.
If you have been struggling with bad breath, don’t eat these foods, or at least avoid them before going out places you will be in close contact with others.
5. Quit using tobacco products
Besides causing cancer and other health complications, smoking or chewing tobacco can damage your gums, stain your teeth and give you bad breath. Quitting will improve your breath and your health overall.
6. Chew gum with xylitol
Gum stimulates saliva, which is the mouth’s natural defense mechanism against plaque acids, which cause tooth decay and bad breath. Xylitol helps to slow the growth of bacteria on the teeth for added protection as well.
7. Keep your gums healthy
Gum disease causes bad breath so discuss treatment options with your dentist and be sure to follow them. Flossing daily, brushing at least twice per day and visiting your hygienist two to three times per year will prevent gum and bone disease.
8. Address dry mouth
You can get tooth decay and bad breath if you don’t make enough saliva. If your mouth is dry, drink 2-3 L of water during the day. Chew gum with xylitol and try a humidifier at night to moisten the air in your house.
You can also check out our recent blog on Dry Mouth for more information.
If you find you have bad breath frequently, it’s a good idea to talk with your dentist about it. They can help you to determine the cause and get rid of it!