Although the title of this blog begins with the word ‘simple,’ for people who struggle with bad breath, there is nothing simple about it. Persistent bad breath is a real problem for some people – once they realize they have it. When they do, it becomes not only worrisome, it is downright embarrassing.
Bad breath, also known as halitosis, is an unpleasant odor that emanates from the mouth. There is no mystery there. For many who struggle with bad breath on a regular basis, the mystery is often in where it is coming from.
There are many sources of bad breath. When we first wake up, after a morning of coffee, having a hot dog with onions for lunch, or battling a sinus infection – having bad breath can be bothersome although these are essentially temporary problems.
The most common cause of persistent bad breath, however, is periodontal (gum) disease. This is an overload of oral bacteria in the mouth that are attacking gum tissues. Their accumulation eventually leads to an infection in the mouth where gum tissues are being destroyed.
According to a report submitted by the Centers For Disease Control & Prevention, over 47 percent of American adults over the age of 30 have some level of gum disease. (www.cdc.gov/oralhealth/periodontal_disease/index.htm) I believe the reason for this prevalence is in gum disease’s ability to exist without obvious symptoms. Too, gum disease symptoms are often easily ignored or assumed ‘normal,’ such as seeing blood in the sink while brushing teeth.
Below are some sources of bad breath and how to ‘freshen up’ once the source is found.
• Periodontal disease: Some symptoms of gum disease include swollen, tender gums; gums that turn darker in color (verses a healthy pink); and gums that bleed easily when brushing. However, gum disease also begins silently and you may not notice any symptoms until it is advanced. Having regular dental checkups is the best way to ensure your gums are in good shape.
• Dry mouth: The term for persistent oral dryness is Xerostomia. Dry mouth occurs when the salivary glands are unable to keep the mouth ‘rinsed’ of oral bacteria. Thus, oral bacteria are able to accumulate in your mouth, which is a warm, moist and dark environment – an ideal breeding ground for oral bacteria. Dry mouth is a common side effect of many medications (both prescription and over-the-counter), aging, mouth breathing, and some diseases. The Mayo Clinic has an excellent explanation of dry mouth and its causes. (www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/dry-mouth/symptoms-causes/syc-20356048) Also, read on to learn more about dietary contributors to oral dryness.
• Certain foods and beverages: If you indulge in morning coffee and perhaps a cola in the afternoon, you may be surprised to know that caffeinated beverages have a drying effect on oral tissues. This also applies to tea, chocolate and spicy foods. And, when you add sugar to your coffee or tea, you rev up the reproduction of oral bacteria by providing them with their ‘super food.’ Are we suggesting you give up your morning coffee or iced tea with lunch? No! However, knowing these are contributing factors to oral dryness should prompt you to follow each cup of coffee or can of cola with a glass of pure, filtered water. This will help to hydrate your whole body as well as your mouth.
• Snoring and mouth breathing: We all wake up with not-so-fresh breath. This is because oral bacteria accumulate in our mouths throughout the night. However, add the drying effects of mouth breathing or snoring and bacterial levels are even higher. This means that all those tiny organisms eating and breeding in your mouth have an ideal setting for thriving – and they thrive on your gum tissues.
• Some diseases: Certain health problems can make bad breath a regular occurrence. GERD is one as well as sinus infections and diabetes, all of which can also leave you more vulnerable to frequent bad breath. Some treatments for certain diseases, such as cancer, also make you more susceptible to oral challenges.
• Smoking: If you smoke, you’re likely aware of having a higher risk for many cancers, heart disease and stroke. Yet, many people ignore the fact that the mouth, with its moist, absorbent tissues, is the entry point for tobacco smoke and its many toxins. The poisonous fumes from this smoke are drying to oral tissues. Your risk for gum disease is higher, which includes a higher risk for persistent bad breath along with stained teeth. You are also at greater risk for oral cancer, which has one of the worst survival rates of all cancers.
The key to having fresh breath is keeping oral bacteria levels to a minimum. It’s ‘simple’ to do, as twice-daily brushing and flossing are tried-&-true ways to have a healthier mouth. Consider using a tongue scraper to remove oral bacteria embedded in the tongue. Also, drink plenty of unsweetened water throughout the day.
Combine this routine with dental exams and cleanings every six months and you’ll likely avoid the repercussions of gum disease and the embarrassment of being the one with bad breath.
If you are experiencing symptoms associated with gum disease, call 910-254-4555 to schedule an exam. Gum disease will only worsen without treatment and can lead to tooth loss. You are also welcome to begin with a free consultation to discuss your oral health or goals for an attractive, confident smile.