When your friend offers you a stick of gum, are they simply trying to be nice, or could they be trying to let you know your breath could use some freshening?
Even brushing your teeth twice daily and using mouthwash may not be enough to keep your breath smelling fresh all day long. In additional to personal hygiene, there are other factors that may contribute to your bad breath.
What causes bad breath?
The medical term for bad breath is halitosis, and it is most often thought to be the result of poor dental habits. However, your halitosis may actually be the sign of a deeper health issue.
Here are some of the reasons you may have bad breath:
The foods you eat. The strong odor of some foods, such as onions or garlic, can linger in your mouth for some time. Even brushing your teeth or using mouthwash after you eat these stringent foods only temporarily masks the odor. The smell won’t fully disappear until the foods are completely broken down and have passed through your body.
Poor hygiene habits. Without daily brushing and flossing, particles of food may remain in your mouth, causing bacteria to grow and resulting in bad breath. Using antibacterial mouth rinses in addition to daily brushing and flossing may help reduce the bacteria between your teeth, on your tongue and around your gums.
Use of tobacco products. Habits such as smoking or chewing tobacco can also cause bad breath and may even stain your teeth or lead to gum disease, another cause of bad breath.
Dry mouth. Saliva helps rinse your mouth of particles that can cause bad breath. Dry mouth during sleep is completely normal (though it can be much worse if you sleep with your mouth open). This is what leads to “morning breath.” Some people experience chronic dry mouth, a condition known as xerostomia, in which decreased saliva production results in unpleasant mouth odor.
Oral infections. Oral surgical procedures, tooth decay, gum disease or mouth sores may lead to infection in the mouth, resulting in bad breath.
Medications. Some medications can cause dry mouth, thus producing bad breath. Other medications may release chemicals in the body, which can be smelled on your breath.
In addition to these common causes of bad breath, infections of the mouth, nose or throat; diseases such as some cancers; and acid reflux may contribute to bad breath.
What can be done about bad breath?
Practicing good oral hygiene is the best way to keep your breath smelling fresh. That means brushing twice a day (don’t forget to brush your tongue!), flossing daily and rinsing with antibacterial mouthwash twice daily. Keep a toothbrush at work or school to brush after lunch, and be sure to replace your toothbrush every two to three months, or after an illness.
Stop smoking and using tobacco-based products. If you need help kicking the habit, talk to your doctor or dentist for smoking cessation tips.
It’s also important to see your dentist at least twice a year. Regular oral exams are essential to detecting and treating mouth disease, dry mouth or any other problems that may cause bad breath.
Finally, drink plenty of water. Hydration will help keep your mouth moist, reducing dry mouth and the bad breath that comes along with it. Chewing sugarless chewing gum and sucking on sugarless candy can also stimulate mouth saliva, reducing the occurrence of dry mouth.
If you experience frequent bad breath and think it may be the result of an underlying health condition, visit your dentist or contact a primary care physician with Goshen Physicians.