Bad breath, or halitosis, is embarrassing and can be caused by a number of different factors. These include food choices, lifestyle habits such as smoking and your dental and medical health. While occasional halitosis affects all of us at times, more persistent bad breath does require investigation. It can be very difficult to tell if you have bad breath and it is often easiest to ask a close relative or a good friend to tell you the truth.
Our dentist Encino has taken a look at some of the most common causes of bad breath and what you can do about them.
Why Does Food Affect Your Breath?
When you eat something the process of digestion begins in your mouth as your saliva contains digestive enzymes. As the food is digested it is absorbed into your bloodstream and is eventually transported to your lungs. If you have eaten highly flavored foods such as garlic or onions then this odor will be expelled on your breath. Brushing your teeth or flossing, or using mouthwash will temporarily mask the smell but you cannot get rid of it completely until the food has been expelled from your body, so it is just a question of being patient.
Poor Oral Hygiene
Brushing your teeth at least twice a day and flossing once-a-day is essential for removing old food particles and bacteria. If you don’t brush your teeth frequently enough then these bacteria will thrive on the leftover food particles, creating a sulfurous odor. Eventually this food debris will rot, creating noxious smells. Food and bacteria can soon build up on dental appliances such as braces and dentures if they aren’t thoroughly cleaned.
Untreated Tooth Decay and Gum Disease
Failing to brush and floss thoroughly also increases your risk of tooth decay and gum disease, both of which can cause halitosis. In fact, bad breath is one of the symptoms of gum disease and it may be accompanied by a persistent bad taste in your mouth. Gum disease is caused by bacteria building up on your teeth, creating toxins that will infect and inflame your gums. Tooth decay can result in a badly infected tooth that will smell unpleasant and which is likely to be painful.
Other Oral Health Problems
A medical condition called dry mouth or xerostomia can lead to bad breath. This is where insufficient saliva is produced to keep the mouth clean and comfortable. Saliva is extremely important for helping to neutralize acids produced by bacteria, and for washing away old skin cells and excess food particles. If old dead skin cells aren’t removed, they can begin to decompose, causing unpleasant odors.
Xerostomia can be due to a number of different factors, as certain treatments for medical conditions can damage the salivary glands and dry mouth is often a side effect of taking certain medications. Respiratory tract infections such as sinus infections, bronchitis or pneumonia can increase the risk of bad breath, as can some medical conditions that include acid reflux, diabetes and kidney and liver problems.
Getting a Diagnosis and Treatment for Bad Breath
If you think you might have bad breath then make an appointment to visit our friendly dental office in Encino. A checkup with Dr. Sheila Mahooti here at Signature Smiles in Los Angeles will help determine the cause of your bad breath. Dr. Mahooti will gently examine your teeth and gums for any signs of disease. If we find anything wrong then you will be provided with a personalized treatment plan. This will detail all possible treatment options, including the costs, and of course we will explain exactly what is required and why.
Book a Hygiene Appointment
A hygiene appointment is a great idea, particularly if you haven’t had your teeth professionally cleaned for six months or more. Our hygienist will thoroughly clean your teeth, removing hardened bacteria (a substance called tartar) from areas you might be missing when brushing and flossing. At the end of your appointment, your teeth should feel immaculately clean, and it is a lovely treatment for freshening up your breath.
Get Personalized Advice on Your Oral Care Routine
Patient education is a very important to us, and we can help improve your brushing and flossing routine. We find lots of people struggle with flossing, but knowing the correct techniques can make this essential task much easier and quicker. Alternatively, we can show you different tools to try such as interdental brushes which you can use instead of dental floss.
At home, make sure you brush at least twice a day, preferably first thing in the morning and last thing at night and that you floss once-a-day. The best time to floss is last thing at night so you go to sleep with a clean mouth because you produce less saliva while you sleep, allowing any bacteria remaining on your teeth and gums to thrive.
It can be helpful to gently brush your tongue as this harbors large amounts of bacteria. You can brush your tongue using your toothbrush, or you can purchase special tongue scrapers very cheaply from your drugstore. We might suggest you use an antimicrobial mouthwash, but otherwise is up to you whether you choose to use a mouth rinse. If you do, pick one with antibacterial properties or which contains fluoride for added protection. Make sure you change your toothbrush every 2 to 3 months as a worn toothbrush will not clean your teeth effectively.
Coping with Xerostomia
If you have dry mouth then we might suggest you use artificial saliva to keep your mouth fresh and clean. You can buy this over-the-counter or we can prescribe something to help you. Drinking plenty of water will keep you well hydrated and some people find it useful to suck on sugar-free candies or to chew sugar-free gum to help stimulate the flow of saliva. If prescription medications are causing your dry mouth then it’s worth having a chat with your physician to see if they can prescribe something different, but you should never stop taking any medications without talking to them first.
Please book an appointment to come and see our dentist in Encino if you are at all concerned you might have bad breath. In most cases we can diagnose and provide suitable treatments, ensuring you have beautifully fresh breath once more. If we cannot find any reason why you have bad breath, then we may suggest you visit your physician. It’s just possible that your halitosis is being caused by an underlying medical condition that could require treatment.