Take My Breath Away!

These days, a lot of us are wearing masks in public. This allows us a chance like none other to really notice how we smell! If you are noticing that your breath is a little funky, you are not alone, and we have some tips and tricks for you. We are here to help!

Why do we get bad breath?

Halitosis is the technical term for bad breath. It is caused by breakdown of food left on the teeth. Oral bacteria digests this food and emits an unpleasant odor. What we call morning breath is very common and not of concern, since overnight our saliva flow decreases and allows this odor causing bacteria to multiply and dead cells to decay. Bad breath can also occur from things we consume, such as garlic or coffee.This goes away with oral hygiene and time. However, bad breath can also be a persistent issue and quite embarrassing, especially if a partner or coworker is the one to point it out to us. In some cases it can have a drastic effect on a person’s self confidence, connections with others, and quality of life.

Prevent and treat bad breath

The best way to prevent and treat halitosis is with good oral hygiene. Make sure you are brushing for a full two minutes, twice a day. It is helpful to use a cell phone timer. Don’t be fooled by the minty fresh taste, there is still bacteria hiding in there! Make sure you are cleaning in between your teeth every day as well. If you floss your teeth and smell the floss afterward, you will notice there is quite a bit of that stinky bacteria hiding out!
Another area often missed in the mouth is the tongue. It is a large surface with lots of small nooks and crannies for this odorous bacteria to hide in. Brush your tongue or use a tongue scraper to remove plaque as well. For most people this makes quite a difference!

Other factors that could be contributing to bad breath

  • If you wear a denture, make sure you remove it at night, clean with a denture brush, and soak it in a denture cleaner overnight. This eliminates any stuck food particles and lets your gums breathe.
  • If you have a bridge, floss underneath the bridge as well. Superfloss is a great tool for threading under bridges, or a Waterpik is also recommended.
  • Most of us reach for mouthwash the instant we feel we have bad breath. That is not necessarily bad because it kills bacteria, but remember, it will also mask the problem with its strong flavor. Make sure you have first removed all the plaque causing the odor.
  • Dental cleanings at least every six months are very important to keep your breath fresh. Missed plaque will harden, both above and beneath the gums, and create a perfect habitat for bacteria to multiply by the thousands.
  • Periodontal disease is a major cause of bad breath. This happens when the body is overwhelmed by the bacteria and buildup on the teeth and the bone that holds the teeth in starts to shrink away from the tooth, creating a deeper area for the bacteria to get stuck in. It’s a vicious cycle, and cannot be stopped with oral hygiene alone, requiring professional dental treatment.
  • Infections in the mouth can also cause bad breath. If you are experiencing bad breath along with pain, swelling, drainage, or loose teeth, call for a dental appointment right away to address a possible infection.
  • Tonsil stones are commonly referred to as smelling “like death”! If you look in the mirror at the back of your throat and see little white dots on the tonsils, this is likely the cause of the odor. Some people physically remove these by gently pushing on the tonsil, or using a soft Q tip or waterpik. Swishing with warm salt water also helps release them, or often people wait until they come out on their own. A dairy reduced diet is supposed to help reduce the frequency of tonsil stones (I have found this to be true myself). Some stones are so large they are removed by a dental professional.

What if it’s not my oral hygiene?

If bad breath persists after addressing personal oral hygiene, there could be other underlying issues at play. Dry mouth is a common side effect of many medications, and since saliva washes away food particles in the mouth, this can contribute to bad breath. Dry mouth products such as Biotene rinse or sugar free gum are usually helpful. Bad breath can also be related to diet, as byproducts of digestion of some foods (such as garlic) linger in the lungs and are breathed out. There could also be an underlying GI issue, diabetes, kidney issues,or respiratory infection. A visit with your primary care provider can help you solve these concerns.

How do I get help?

The ADA states
“Above all, talk with your dentist about your concerns. A thorough health history, including a list of medications and supplements you are taking, may be helpful in determining whether the cause of your bad breath is localized to the mouth or might be a systemic condition, in which case a physician should be consulted”.
We are here for you at Johnston Dental Care and happy to help!

Sources and further reading:

https://www.ada.org/~/media/ADA/Publications/Files/for_the_dental_patient_sept_2012.ashx https://www.colgateprofessional.com/education/patient-education/topics/halitosis/bad-breath

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