Let’s Talk About Your Breath

added on: May 11, 2024

There are certain things that make people stand-offish. For example, there may be worries about deodorant wearing off and concerns of body odor. Or, a cat owner may sniff the air frequently inside their home to detect signs of a litter box.

Scents are amazing things. Science has found that certain smells can affect us in different ways. The smell of citrus, for example, is said to be invigorating. The smell of lavender has a calming effect.

And then there are odors that tell us something is wrong… a stinky garbage can, burning rubber, meat past its date. When these odors are detected, they signal that something is wrong. They tell us that something needs our attention.

This is how I feel about the odor of bad breath. This odor sends the message that something is, well, rotting. And, that’s essentially what bad breath is. In the mouth, this “rot” occurs when icky bacteria have sources of sustenance that are equally icky. And the longer their food source exists, the more they thrive and multiply. The more they accumulate, they are able to make their presence known by an unpleasant odor.

The odor occurs as the bacteria that break down food lead to the production and release of smelly volatile sulfur compounds (VSCs). It’s an issue many adults deal with, some more than others. Approximately 30% of the population complains of some sort of frequent bad breath.

Halitosis (latin for “bad breath”) is a temporary condition (or it should be). It can be the result of eating certain things, such as an onion-covered hot dog or a dish heavy with garlic. Or, it can be present in the morning after waking when your mouth is sticky and dry. Fortunately, this bad breath is temporary.

Temporary halitosis can also occur from some beverages (including alcoholic drinks or coffee) and smoking (including cigarettes, pipe, cigar, and e-cigarettes). Certain medications have a side effect of oral dryness that can lead to bad breath.

In most cases, bad breath is the result of poor oral hygiene, gum diseases such as gingivitis and periodontitis, and dry mouth. Oral dryness allows bacteria in the mouth to accumulate by limiting the amount of saliva. Saliva helps to cleanse the mouth after eating and drinking. Low amounts of saliva will have a definite effect on bad breath as bacteria are able to amass to greater levels.

As a dentist in Macomb County, I’ve found that many individuals who have some level of gum disease are not even aware of its presence. As a matter of fact, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) estimates that 47.3% of Americans over the age of 30 have gum disease.

Chronic bad breath typically occurs when the salivary glands cannot make enough saliva to keep your mouth moist. To verify this, an examination at our Shelby Twp dental office can determine if periodontal disease exists or identify any mouth problem that could be contributing to bad breath. If not the case, your breath odor may be coming from conditions such as tonsillitis, respiratory infections (sinusitis or bronchitis,) and some gastrointestinal diseases (such as GERD).

If you’ve had a diligent at-home hygiene routine and still feel plagued by frequent bad breath, consider seeing your primary care physician to see if an underlying medical problem is contributing to the problem.

Seeing your dentist regularly is important, but the “clean slate” from a professional cleaning only lasts a short time. You need to take measures to minimize oral bacteria between visits so your breath stays fresh and you can avoid the potential of periodontal (gum) disease and cavities.

To prevent gum disease, it is important to know the signs and symptoms, which include:

Red, swollen or tender gums
Bleeding while brushing, flossing, or when chewing rigorously
Sores in your mouth
Persistent bad breath
Receded gums that reveal darker areas of teeth or that cause teeth to look longer
Loose or separating teeth
Pus between your gums and teeth
A change in your bite when teeth are together
A change in how partial dentures fit

Gum disease is the nation’s leading cause of adult tooth loss. As a dental office offering all stages of dental implants (including oral or IV sedation), we know this to be true. Many patients lost natural teeth with persistent bad breath as the initial symptom, without realizing it was present.

If you feel your breath could improve but is not due to a medical condition, the fix may be an easy one. Here’s a checklist to help keep your breath fresh and have a healthier mouth:

• Brush your teeth twice a day for two minutes each and twice a day, ideally after breakfast and the before bedtime. People with dry mouth or other conditions that make them more likely to have bad breath may want to brush an additional time, perhaps after lunch.
• Floss daily to keep your gums healthy and to dislodge food particles caught between teeth. If flossing is a pain, consider using a tongue scraper. This action can uproot millions of bacteria embedded in the surface of the tongue. You can also accomplish this by using your toothbrush.
• Mouthwash can help kill bacteria and neutralize bad breath odors, but know its use is a temporary solution. Additional measures will be needed to minimize bacteria growth.
• After brushing and flossing, swish well. Make sure the water is getting to the back teeth and towards the back of the tongue.
• Avoid dry mouth by staying hydrated with plain water to keep the mouth moist and support saliva flow.• Be aware that consuming coffee, soda and alcohol work against your oral health. Consider swishing after a cup of coffee or vaping
• Keep sugar-free gum or sugarless hard candies handy when you can’t brush or swish.
• For persistent dry mouth, ask your dentist about an artificial saliva to help with hydration.

Bad breath, like many other smelly odors, is an indication that something needs tending to. Take good care of your oral health and it’ll take good care of you!

Begin with a no-cost consultation appointment. Just tap here or call to speak with a friendly staff member: 586-739-2155.






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Dr. Ban R. Barbat

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