If notice that coworkers always seem to email you questions even if they sit in the cubicle next to you, your kids politely pull the covers over their nose when you kiss them goodnight, or that the person who takes your coffee order in the morning always takes a step back when you approach the counter, you may suffer from bad breath.
Clinically referred to as halitosis, funky, foul smelling breath is nothing you should ignore, as it could be a sign of poor oral hygiene or a more serious underlying medical condition. Regardless of what’s causing your halitosis, you can take steps to rid yourself of bad breath at home and with the help of your dentist.
Causes of Bad Breath
There are a number of different factors that can lead you to experience frequent, reoccurring bad breath that include:
Foods and drinks: The foods and drinks you consume daily can have an enormous impact on how fresh your breath smells to those sharing an elevator with you on the way back from lunch.
Toxic smelling foods like garlic, onions, “stinky” cheeses, and cured meats are absorbed into the bloodstream as part of the digestion process. As your blood makes it way to the lungs, the odors caused by eating these types of food begin to affect the air you breathe out. While brushing or flossing can briefly cover up these odorous odes to your breakfast, lunch, or dinner, your bad breath won’t go away until your body has completely processed these foods out of your system.
Dry mouth: Saliva acts as your body’s naturally occurring cleaning crew. After eating, saliva washes lingering food particles out of your mouth and down into the digestive system. However, if you suffer from dry mouth, these food particles will remain in your mouth until you brush or thoroughly rinse with water. The longer food stays in your mouth, the more quickly it begins to decay, and you can probably guess how that’s going to make your breath smell.
Practicing Poor Oral Hygiene: Even the healthiest of mouths contains millions of bacteria, which can quickly buildup into the billions if you don’t brush and floss daily. Brushing and flossing also help to remove lingering food particles and bacteria from around and in-between your teeth. Failure to remove these items from your mouth can lead you to develop tooth decay and gum disease, two issues that can also contribute to bad breath.
Health problems: Occasionally bad breath can act as an indication of a more serious underlying health problem, such as:
- Gastrointestinal problems
- Kidney or live disease
- Chronic lung infection
- Sinus infection
Treating and Preventing Bad Breath
Fortunately for those who have developed the reputation as having “dragon breath,” you can eliminate many of the causes of halitosis through several easy steps.
- Change what you eat and drink. If you have a fondness for pickled liverwurst and onion sandwiches, you have no one to blame but yourself if nobody wants to sit with you during or after lunch. However, by limiting your consumption of these types of foods, and drinking plenty of water during meals, you can help to prevent bad breath caused by the foods you eat.
- If you suffer from dry mouth, try chewing sugar free gum to promote your mouth to produce more saliva. If you don’t care for gum try sucking on sugar free mints instead.
- Avoid smoking. Probably easier said than done if you’re a smoker, cigarettes and other forms of tobacco can create foul smelling breath or make bad breath even worse.
- Thoroughly brush your teeth, tongue, and gums with toothpaste that contains fluoride at least twice a day. Foul smelling bacteria can buildup on your tongue, so giving it a good scrubbing when brushing can make a huge difference when it comes to dealing with bad breath.
- Remove and soak your dentures at night to kill bacteria that builds up throughout the day.
- Rinse with an antibacterial mouthwash as part of your nightly oral hygiene regimen. Bacteria builds up in many hard to reach places in the mouth that you might miss when brushing but can eliminate with the use of a rinse.
When to Visit the Dentist
As part of any successful oral health plan, you should visit the dentist at least twice a year for routine checkups and cleanings. However, if your bad breath persists regardless of changes you make to your diet or improvements made to your oral hygiene routine, you may want to consider scheduling an appointment to discuss your halitosis. Gresham General Dentist Dr. Ries can help you understand how to improve the issue, or refer you a doctor if he suspects your bad breath is caused by a more serious underlying health issue.