Why does my breath smell (and what can I do about it)?
Bad breath affects most everyone at one time or another. Morning breath or a post-spicy meal are situations we can all relate to. However, consistent bad breath, also known as halitosis or fetor oris, can point to an underlying health issue. According to the American Dental Association, nearly 50 percent of adults have experienced some level of halitosis in their lifetime. While it may not be a deadly health issue, halitosis can certainly cause anxiety, embarrassment, and significant worry.
So, what causes halitosis, exactly?
- Infections - According to The Mayo Clinic, nose, sinus and throat infections can lead to postnasal drip and can also contribute to frequent bad breath. The bacteria that forms from these infections feeds on mucus produced by the body when it fights infections, leaving sinuses stuffy and with bacteria build-up. Because the sinuses are directly connected to the mouth, it can cause bad breath.
- Smoking and Tobacco Use - We all know that tobacco use can lead to significant health issues. Not only does it damage your internal organs, lessen your lifespan and promote cancer growth, it can also dry out your mouth and cause gum disease, a leading cause of bad breath.
- Dry Mouth - Dry mouth occurs when the salivary glands are not able to produce the needed amount of saliva to naturally cleanse the mouth. Dry mouth can also occur if you sleep with your mouth open or take certain medications. Saliva aids in removing day-to-day bacteria build-up, so when you don’t produce enough of it to do so, bad breath is a natural side effect.
- Dental Issues - Cavities, gum disease, and poor dental hygiene can give bad breath bacteria extra opportunities to wreak havoc. Even if you do take care of your teeth and gums, something as simple as small pockets in your gums can become a home to bacteria, causing bad breath.
Luckily, bad breath is a relatively simple issue to take care of. Some quick tips to help address bad breath and prevent it from recurring include:
- Brush AND floss frequently - Plaque build-up on your teeth and along your gum line can collect bacteria that cause bad breath. Make sure to brush a minimum of twice daily, and floss a minimum of once daily.
- Add mouthwash - While brushing and flossing are good for healthy teeth and good breath, adding mouthwash to your daily routine adds extra protection by getting rid of any bacteria that brushing and flossing may have missed.
- Scrape your tongue - An often missed aspect of brushing your teeth, scraping your tongue is an integral part of preventing bad breath.
- Schedule regular cleanings - Your dentist is trained to notice signs of deeper issues that may be causing bad breath. The best way to ensure healthy gums and teeth is by keeping up with your regular dental cleanings.
Your best line of defense is always your regularly scheduled cleaning. Your dentist will ask you specific questions regarding health history, dental hygiene practices, and additional health-related questions to get to the source of the issue and come up with an individualized treatment plan. Schedule your appointment today to ensure your breath is fresh and clean!