All of us have experienced bad breath at some point. However, suffering from chronic bad breath, or halitosis, can be embarrassing and affect your self-esteem and relationships with family, friends and coworkers. The good news -- bad breath is often preventable and easily treated.
If you find yourself regularly using mints, gum or mouthwash to mask the odor of bad breath, the Pennsylvania Dental Association (PDA) recommends talking to your dentist. Through an exam, he or she can determine if your bad breath is the result of an unhealthy mouth and recommend treatment options.
"People tend to like dogs, even ones with bad breath. They simply chalk it up to a dog being a dog," said Dr. Constance Wilson, a PDA member and general dentist from Lewisburg. "However, when we non-canines emit bad breath, the reception tends to be quite different. Fortunately, many times bad breath can be treated by a simple visit to the dentist."
There are many causes of bad breath, including:
- The foods you eat. Once food is absorbed into the bloodstream, it is transferred to the lungs and expelled. Eating foods such as onions and garlic often create an unpleasant breath odor.
- Poor oral hygiene. If you don't brush and floss daily, particles of food remain in the mouth and collect bacteria, contributing to bad breath. Food also gets stuck between the teeth, on the tongue and around the gums. Brushing twice a day and flossing daily will help remove odor-causing bacteria.
- Periodontal (gum) disease or other medical disorders. One of the warning signs of periodontal disease is chronic bad breath. Periodontal disease, an infection of the tissues that support your teeth, is caused by the plaque-forming bacteria in your mouth. Bad breath also can be a symptom of other medical conditions, such as respiratory tract infections, chronic sinusitis, postnasal drip, diabetes, gastrointestinal disturbance and liver or kidney problems.
- Leaking filling or crown. Bacteria can survive and create additional decay in a tooth with a filling or crown if there is a gap or fracture. Your dentist can examine your teeth with an X-ray and a visual exam to see if there are any fillings or crowns in need of repair.
- Dry mouth (xerostomia). Saliva is the body's natural mouth rinse that washes and dilutes odor-causing bacteria from the mouth. Dry mouth occurs when saliva flow decreases. Talk to your dentist if you think you suffer from dry mouth. He or she may recommend an artificial saliva, sugarless candy or increasing your fluid intake.
- Tobacco products. Tobacco users are more likely to suffer from bad breath. If you use tobacco, talk to your dentist about ways to quit.
PDA reminds the public that good oral health habits are essential to keeping your mouth healthy and reducing bad breath. It is important that you visit the dentist every six months for a professional cleaning and checkup to maintain optimal oral health and detect any problems in their early stages.
Pennsylvania Dental Association