Bad Breath (Halitosis)
Bad breath, also known as halitosis, is extremely common. Many over-the-counter products make unfounded promises about improving bad breath without addressing its causes.
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Bad breath, also known as halitosis, is extremely common. Many over-the-counter products make unfounded promises about being able to improve bad breath without addressing its causes. Removal of odor-causing bacteria is the most crucial part of treating halitosis. This bacteria can be caused by improper hygiene and many different foods. Understanding the causes allows us to properly direct our treatment efforts to the correct source of the issue.
Symptoms can vary from bad taste to bad smells. It can be hard to detect when you have bad-smelling breath. Many find out they have bad breath when a friend tells them. However, we have seen cases where someone thought they had bad breath but did not. Someone told them they had bad breath, and they were obsessed with eliminating a problem that simply did not exist. Because of this issue, it is important to focus on what you can control, which is your oral hygiene and your diet.
Many things can cause bad breath. We always want to start by addressing the most common causes.
- Lack of Tongue Brushing
- The majority of smells come from bacteria that collect on the tongue. We start our search for bad breath here. Our tongue can trap bad-smelling bacteria, especially in the area further back towards the throat.
- Lack of Brushing or Flossing
- Particles from the food we eat combine with saliva and bacteria in the mouth to become plaque. Plaque can get stuck around the teeth, between the teeth and under the gums. If not removed, it can cause bad odors. Daily brushing and flossing can remove bad-smelling bacteria. If it is not removed daily, it will cause damage to the gums surrounding the teeth and cause infection (gum disease).
- Dentures, Partials or Retainers
- Dentures, partials or retainers can harbor bacteria and plaque. They need to be cleaned regularly with soap and water.
- Tobacco Products
- Smoking causes gum disease, dry mouth and bad breath. Tobacco products can worsen the issue for patients who have poor oral hygiene.
- Dry Mouth
- Many different medications can cause dry mouth. Normal salivary flow decreases at night when staying up late or when sleeping. Usually, saliva washes away plaque and bacteria. With reduced saliva, we see more plaque than usual and more odor as a result.
- Onions, garlic, spices and other foods can collect in the mouth and stomach, causing bad breath. Sometimes the smells can hang around much longer than expected.
- Tonsils Stones
- Bacteria can get lodged on these stones and in other parts of the throat and harbor smelly bacteria.
- Acid Reflux
- Bacteria in the stomach that causes acid reflux can cause bad breath and should be ruled out as well.
Our diagnosis is first made by ruling out the most common offenders. Since 85% of bad breath comes from the tongue, we start there. Examination of the tongue and throat will show if there are any excess bacteria. Next, we will do a periodontal exam to see if there are areas of plaque build-up, infection or bleeding. If these are noted, we will recommend treatment to eliminate these factors first. If everything is healthy in the mouth, we will start to evaluate other potential causes like diet and other sources of bacteria like your nasal cavity and stomach.