August 6th is Fresh Breath Day! (Yes, it really has its own day.) For most of us, brushing and flossing are enough to keep our breath fresh. Sometimes we'll use mouthwash, a breath mint, or gum to freshen it up during the day. But what if all that isn't enough?
Most often, the cause of bad breath traces back to bacteria. Our mouths contain both helpful and harmful bacteria. “Bad” bacteria cause gum disease, tooth cavities, and bad breath.
Poor brushing habits allow bacteria-containing plaque to collect on your teeth and gums, causing bad breath. If the poor oral cleaning habits go on long enough, it can cause gum disease (also called periodontal disease). The damage caused by periodontal disease can allow food, plaque and tartar to collect around your teeth. Our body temperature is 98 degrees--how would food smell if you left it out in 98 degree weather? A professional dental cleaning or treatment for periodontal disease might be needed to help resolve your bad breath--it may not be the total answer, but it will help--but you do need to keep up with cleaning on your own or your bad breath will come back. Cleaning your tongue by brushing it or using a tongue scraper will remove bacteria that collects there. This has been found to help in about 70% of bad breath cases.
Another possible reason for bad breath is unclean dentures, partials or bridgework—but this traces back to bacteria as well. Plaque and other films that contain bacteria settle on any uneven areas of dental appliances. Use a cleaning product made for your appliance. A product that you soak your removable appliance in may help to loosen stubborn materials. You may also need to brush your appliance. If the material is really stuck to the appliance, your dentist or dental hygienist might be able to use a professional product to try to loosen the material.
Dry mouth (which is also a bacteria related cause) can also contribute to bad breath. Many medications (both prescription and over the counter) have a side effect of drying out the mouth. Sip on plain water or use sugar-free gums or candy to keep your mouth moist. There are also oral care products made to help with dry mouth that may help you. You might also be able to ask the doctor who prescribed the medication(s) if there is another one that will do the same thing but that doesn’t have dry mouth as a side effect.
Lastly, certain foods can also cause bad breath. Garlic and onions are two of the main ones. These can actually get into the respiratory (breathing) system and contribute to bad breath from inside your body.
Your dentist can help you determine the cause of your bad breath by reviewing your medications to see which ones might cause dry mouth, checking your teeth for decay or cavities, checking your gums for periodontal disease, reviewing your diet and health history. Just remember, you are not alone in your struggle for fresh breath!
*Note: Information in this article is not meant to replace the clinical judgement of your healthcare professionals.
Dr. Jennifer Robb is accepting new patients to her general dentistry office at 1612 Cooper Foster Park Rd., Lorain, OH. Call 440-960-1940 to reserve your time! Dr. Robb can also be found on Facebook at www.facebook.com/DrJenniferRobb and at www.drjrobb.com