A common question you hear at most dental office's is – “What causes bad breath?”
Many times the complaint is not from the offender but from a long suffering spouse or family member. There are many causes of bad breath (which we call “halitosis”) – some serious and some not. And while many people have decided to just hold their nose and live with it, the good news is diagnosing and treating bad breath is something that can easily be done.
Here is a list, in no particular order, of the reasons people may be slowly backing up during conversations:
Foods Containing Pungent Oils
Yes – garlic and onions are very healthy, but they also contain oils which may cause an unhealthy reaction to those around you. These odors come from the lungs, last up to 72 hours and can be tough to cover up. Mints, gum and rinses are your best bet – or make sure everyone around you has had the same yummy food as well!
Colds, sore throats, coughs and sinus infections all cause yucky smelling mucus (or snot, depending on your age), to get trapped in our mouths, throats and noses, which causes foul breath until the illness is taken care of. Of course, if you have one of these highly contagious problems you shouldn’t be that close to someone anyway! If a sinus infection, sore throat, cough or cold doesn’t clear up in a few days to a week, you should probably see your physician to make sure things aren’t of a serious nature.
A dry mouth lets dead cells accumulate on your gums, tongue and cheeks. And while morning breath is a perfectly normal phenomenon due to lowered salivary activity at night – it shouldn’t last all day. Those who snore, mouth-breath, take certain medications, or even have lasted into middle age are prone to a dry mouth.
Smoking dries out your mouth (see above) and also, tobacco just plain stinks. If lung cancer and heart disease aren’t reason enough to give up the ciggies, maybe a constant foul mouth will help you make that life-saving decision.
Chronic Diseases or Conditions
Many serious diseases such as lung infections, kidney failure, diabetes, cancer, GERD, anorexia, bulimia and others can cause very specific types of halitosis. The good news is that these are on the rare side, but if anything along these lines is suspected, a referral to the appropriate practitioner is in order.
Poor Dental Hygiene and Gum Disease
Ahhh… this is our favorite! Not because we like people to have poor dental hygiene and gum disease, but because these are very common causes of bad breath and we can usually treat them quite easily. But please don’t wait too long! Gum disease, which usually starts with poor brushing and flossing habits as well as a lack of routine dental visits, can do much more than make your mouth stinky.
In just a short period of time, gum disease can advance and eat away at the gums and bone which hold your teeth in place. The result? Loose, unstable teeth which will eventually be lost if not treated. Catching gum disease early is great as treatment is typically conservative. Wait too long and it gets much more difficult and extensive.
Bad breath is not normal! Seeing your dentist and dental hygienist on a routine basis is your best bet for making sure your teeth and gums stay healthy, your smile stays bright, and your breath doesn’t cause others to run in the opposite direction.