Halitosis is the medical term for bad breath. Although it is embarrassing, halitosis is common enough. Because it is difficult to smell your own breath halitosis may have been a problem for some time by the time you become aware of it. As you probably know, you can cover it up temporarily with gum or mints. However, if you understand the cause of your bad breath, you can take steps to eliminate it permanently. Here is everything you need to know about halitosis.
Causes of Halitosis
One common cause of halitosis is the kind caused by bacteria. Those bacteria are a necessary part of food digestion and work hard to break down whatever food you eat. Too much good bacteria can cause all kinds of health issues, and one of those issues is halitosis. Why does the bacteria in your mouth build up?
- Poor oral hygiene – Sometimes the simplest answer is the most obvious. Proper brushing and flossing remove food particles that bacteria feed on, as well as the bacteria themselves. Brush at least twice a day for two minutes, and floss once a day. Flossing removes food and bacteria between teeth that can cause cavities and contribute to gum disease. A healthy mouth is a fresh mouth.
- Dry mouth – Saliva is an important part of the digestive process. From the start, saliva helps break down food and carry small particles away (to the stomach!) for the next phase of digestion. The amount of saliva in your mouth is affected by many things. Your mouth naturally produces less saliva in your sleep, so it’s normal to wake up with “morning breath.” It could be hereditary, or an effect of aging. Many medications include dry mouth among their side effects.
Fortunately, there is a simple solution to this cause of halitosis. Drinking lots of fluids helps to increase saliva levels and mimic its effects by washing food particles away. Of course, water – not caffeinated or sugary drinks – is best for your teeth and body. Chewing gum encourages the production of saliva by stimulating the salivary glands. The gum itself also cleans your teeth, as long as it is sugarless. Xylitol has its own anti-tooth decay properties, so sugarless gum made with xylitol is even better for your oral health.
- Oral infection – Cavities, abscesses and gum disease usually carry bacterial infections that can contribute to halitosis. These infections pose multiple risks to your teeth, mouth, and overall health. Bad breath may be a clue that there is something wrong, especially if you haven’t had a checkup with your dentist in some time. Getting an oral exam and professional cleaning at the dentist’s office every six months helps prevent infections, cavities, and more.
- Sinus infection – Those with chronic sinus issues often struggle with halitosis. Mucus that drips into the mouth from sinuses dries up saliva and results in the same dry mouth that encourages bacteria to grow. This is yet another source of dry mouth but deserves its own mention because of the number of people who struggle with sinus issues.
Bad breath is not always caused by bacteria. Although there is a certain recognizable odor to that sort of halitosis, there are other causes that create other smells.
- Smoking – Cigarettes certainly have a recognizable odor on the breath and in the clothing of people who smoke them. Even with minty gum and tooth brushing, heavy smokers will taste stale smoke from its absorption into the lungs. The taste this causes in your mouth is just one of the many reasons not to smoke!
- Food – Also falls under the “common sense” category, certain foods with strong taste will linger – think of garlic and onions – in your mouth. These and other foods and some spices enter the bloodstream and are exuded through your pores and can come back up into your mouth from your lungs.
- Cancers and other diseases. Bad breath and the presence of certain gases may indicate cancers and other diseases. For example, excess methylamine may signal liver and kidney disease, while ammonia may be a sign of renal failure. High levels of acetone may indicate diabetes, while nitric oxide can be used to diagnose asthma. A visit to your doctor can detect any abnormalities.
As long as you follow the recommendation of regular visits to the dentist, halitosis does not have to be a mystery. Your dentist can help determine the cause of your chronic bad breath. If you live in the Las Vegas area, trust the team at Dedicated Dental to care for your oral health. Since 2006 they have treated patients ages 4 and up at their office in Henderson, Nevada. For an appointment, call (702) 566-5509 to speak with one of our friendly office staff today!