Halitosis, more commonly known as bad breath, can be an embarrassing problem. If you are concerned about bad breath, first make sure that you are taking care of your mouth and gums by practicing good dental habits. The mouth is the source of over 90% of all malodours. If bad breath persists, your dentist at Reva Dental will identify the cause and develop a treatment plan to help you eliminate it. There are many causes of bad breath. The good news is that it can often be prevented with a few simple steps.
What causes bad breath?
Neglecting your brushing and flossing: If you don’t properly clean your teeth, gums, and tongue, particles of food and bacteria left in the mouth, especially at night-time, can cause an unpleasant odour.
The foods you eat: Certain foods, like garlic and onions, can cause bad breath because they contain pungent oils that are carried to your lungs and out of your mouth.
Dry mouth: Saliva is necessary to cleanse the mouth and remove odour causing particles and bacteria. It contains enzymes that break down food particles and other enzymes that kill bacteria. A condition called xerostomia (dry mouth) occurs when the flow of saliva is decreased and can cause bad breath. Decreased saliva flow also occurs naturally at night-time, so it is important to clean your mouth last thing at night.
Tobacco: Smoking not only causes bad breath, but can also stain your teeth, irritate your gums, and reduce your ability to taste foods.
Gum disease: Persistent bad breath is a warning sign of periodontal (gum) disease.
Medical disorder: In a small percentage of cases, bad breath could be a sign of a medical disorder, such as infection of the respiratory tract, chronic sinusitis, postnasal drip, diabetes, gastrointestinal disturbance or a liver or kidney problem.
Good dental habits can banish bad breath
In most cases, embarrassing bad breath can be prevented by good oral hygiene.
- Brush your teeth with a fluoride toothpaste twice a day to remove food debris and plaque
- Use floss daily to remove any food particles trapped between teeth. Any food particles left in the mouth can cause bad breath
- Your tongue can harbour odour-causing bacteria. Be sure to brush your tongue with a toothbrush, or clean it with a tongue scraper
- Use toothpastes containing zinc chloride/ triclosan/ baking soda for cleaning your tongue if you have malodour. This will give temporary relief for up to four hours
- Visit your dentist for regular checkups. Professional cleanings will help to get rid of plaque and bacteria build-up that may contribute to bad breath. Your dentist may also be able to determine the source of persistent bad breath and formulate a plan for treatment. This may include a chlorhexidine spray for the pharynx (throat area behind the mouth), which is an additional source of malodour in a significant number of cases
Do I need to use a mouthwash or rinse?
Some antiseptic mouth rinses have exhibited therapeutic benefits in reducing plaque and gingivitis (gum disease). However, many mouthwashes or rinses are cosmetic and while these can be used to freshen breath, they do not generally have a long lasting effect on bad breath. If you choose to use mouth rinse, look for an over-the-counter antiseptic mouthwash containing zinc chloride or chlorhexidine. Mouth rinses should not be swallowed – follow the instructions on the bottle. If you find that you are constantly using a mouth rinse to mask odour, see your dentist.
Besides keeping your teeth, gums, and tongue clean and healthy, these are some other remedies that may help cure the problem of bad breath.
- Quit smoking! Kicking the habit will go a long way to improving bad breath and your overall health
- If you wear dentures or removable appliances, be sure to remove them at night and clean them thoroughly before replacing them in your mouth (more info here)
- If you are experiencing problems with dry mouth, your dentist may prescribe artificial saliva. Other possible remedies for dry mouth include sucking a sugar-free sweet or a piece of sugar free gum to increase saliva flow, and increasing your fluid intake.