We’ve all dealt with it. Whether it’s our own, our kids’, our partner’s, or even your pet’s, bad breath isn’t only unpleasant, it can be a source of shame and can cause anxiety at work, school, or social functions. As you stand in line at the grocery store, gums and mints taunt you, making you question every close encounter you’ve had throughout the day, but if you or someone you know does tend to have an issue with oral odors, Dentist of Cerritos is here to help.
So, how do we combat bad breath? First, you need to know what it is and what causes it. Then you can determine a course of action for dealing with it daily. There are a few simple dental health steps you can take today to put bad breath in its place.
Bad breath has a technical term: halitosis. It varies from slight, unpleasant odors to more serious smells and symptoms depending on the severity, source, or possible underlying condition. Whether you deal with it occasionally or regularly, knowing its symptoms and causes will help to get halitosis under control.
Bad breath is typically caused by certain foods, poor oral hygiene routines, or lifestyle habits. In rare cases, a more serious health issue may be the cause, so understanding where your or your loved one’s bad breath is coming from is important. Here you will find the most common causes of bad breath and how to address them.
Poor dental hygiene habits are a leading cause of bad breath. This may seem obvious, but not brushing and flossing your teeth regularly is a common cause of regular halitosis. Brushing your teeth removes plaque which contains bacteria that causes, among other conditions like tooth decay and gum disease, bad breath. Your tongue can also be a breeding ground for bacteria, so don’t forget to brush it as part of your dental hygiene routine.
Brushing your teeth and tongue twice a day will typically stop bacteria-related bad breath in its tracks. If you notice bad breath even after brushing twice a day, you may want to brush your teeth and tongue after every meal. Brushing is only half the battle. Don’t forget to floss! Flossing regularly removes larger pieces of food that can decompose in your mouth and cause very unpleasant odors. These pieces of food can also lead to more serious dental conditions, such as tooth decay and gum disease, so don’t forget to brush and floss at least twice each day.
Garlic and onions. We’ve all been there. After eating a garlic or onion-heavy meal, watching friends and family lean away or offer an unsolicited stick of gum. Why do certain foods cause bad breath more than others? Any food left to decompose in between teeth or in your gums will release a foul odor, but certain foods like garlic and onions linger even after brushing and flossing, and that’s because you are only treating the symptom and not the cause. Both of these foods belong to the allium family and contain sulfur compounds that are metabolized into the bloodstream and make their way into the lungs and return as bad breath. When you brush your teeth, you remove some odor-causing particles in your mouth, and you may mask some of the sulphuric smells coming from your lungs by chewing gum or using mouthwash, but you aren’t addressing the root cause. The bad news is that the only way to truly avoid “garlic breath” or “onion breath” is to stop eating garlic and onions. However, there are a few ways to lessen the effect. Obviously, keeping your mouth fresh and clean by brushing and flossing is a great first step, but there is also some evidence that eating produce such as apples, spinach, mushrooms, and fresh mint may help neutralize the sulphurs and reduce the scent. Drinking green tea may also help.
Low-carb diets. When on a low-carb diet, your body is metabolizing fat for fuel, releasing ketones into the bloodstream which can cause halitosis. Like alliums, ketones cannot be dealt with simply by brushing and flossing, but you can lessen the effect by drinking more water and using sugar-free gums and mints, specifically xylitol-based products which have been shown to fight bacteria.
Alcohol. The body treats excess alcohol as a toxin and converts it into acetic acid, a less harmful substance, which is the cause of bad breath. In this case, alcohol-caused bad breath may be a reminder to exercise restraint when drinking. Liqueurs and apéritifs, though they may have a more pleasing scent before being consumed, are often a leading cause of alcohol-based bad breath. To deal with this issue, consuming less alcohol and staying hydrated is key.
Tobacco. Not only do tobacco products have their own odors, but smokers and other tobacco users are more likely to have other oral health issues, such as gum disease, which is a leading cause of bad breath. While proper dental health practices and products such as gum, mouthwash, or mints can help mask the smell caused by tobacco use, the best option is limiting or eliminating tobacco use to avoid much more serious health problems like gum disease and cancer.
Dry mouth. When you wake up with your mouth feeling dry, you might also notice an unpleasant odor. This is because saliva, which helps to naturally clean your mouth, is lessened when sleeping, especially for people who sleep with their mouths open. Staying hydrated and brushing and flossing first thing in the morning can help with this issue.
Acid reflux. If you experience acid reflux and heartburn, you already know it is uncomfortable and unpleasant, but it can lead to another problem: bad breath. When undigested foods upset stomach acids and bile, some of the byproducts may escape into the esophagus and cause bad breath. To combat these issues, chewing more thoroughly, eating smaller meals, lying down after eating, and taking antacid medications may help.
Medications. Some medications can contribute to dry mouth or acid reflux as a side effect and others may contribute to bad breath by releasing unwanted odors as they are broken down by the body. Talk to your doctor if these problems persist.
If you suddenly experience distinct, intense, or new odors, or if you have been practicing good oral hygiene and watching your diet and habits but bad breath persists, it may be time to see a dentist or doctor. Certain medical conditions, such as oral infections after surgery, tonsil stones, inflammation in the mouth or nose, can lead to bad breath and should be dealt with by your dentist or medical doctor. Though rare, bad breath can be a symptom of more serious diseases, such as cancer and metabolic imbalances.
To avoid the most common causes of bad breath, be sure to practice positive oral health at home by brushing and flossing at least twice a day, staying hydrated, and avoiding sugary foods when possible. When new problems pop up or halitosis persists, schedule an appointment with Dentist of Cerritos. When you come in for your regular checkups, ask your dentists about any concerns you have with bad breath. Your dentist can address these concerns and help you to avoid future problems with your dental health. Make sure you are scheduling regular dental checkups as part of your oral health routine!
To schedule a back-to-school checkup or teeth cleaning that fits with your schedule, call Dentist of Cerritos today at (562) 414-5064!
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