Bad breath affects millions of people around the world. It can have a negative impact on your social interactions and your self-esteem. Bad breath can also be a sign of various health problems, including dental diseases, infections in the ENT or GI regions, and metabolic disorders. You should never ignore bad breath.
What Causes Bad Breath?
The primary cause of bad breath is bacteria. There are specific bacteria that produce foul-smelling gases. Most of these odoriferous gases are volatile sulfur compounds, or VSCs. These bacteria can live anywhere along nasal passages, the oral cavity, throat, lungs, or gastrointestinal tract. Though all of these locations are potential harbors for stinky bacteria, more than 90% of bad breath originates in the oral cavity. The mouth is full of nooks and crannies that make wonderful collecting spots for bacteria in the form of dental plaque.
The most common sites for large colonies of bacteria in the mouth are between the teeth, inside large cavities, in deep gum pockets, in the deep grooves of the tongue, and in the folds of the tonsils. As you can see, there are many potential culprits. And it is possible to have bacterial accumulation in several of these different sites, compounding the problem.
What Can I Do to Improve My Breath?
The first, and most important, step in improving bad breath is fighting the bacteria that causes it. There are several things you can do to reduce the overall amount of bacteria in your mouth. Almost all of the tactics fall under the umbrella of oral hygiene. Because these odor-producing bacteria resides in dental plaque, your goal is to remove as much plaque as possible. The following is a list of steps to take in order to perform great oral hygiene and effectively remove dental plaque.
Master a great toothbrushing technique.
Did you know that you could brush your teeth and miss quite a bit of dental plaque? In order to remove as much plaque as brushing allows, you must use the right technique. The best brushing technique includes holding the toothbrush so that the bristles are at a 45-degree angle to the tooth surface. Then move the brush in gentle, circular motions ensuring that the bristles sweep along the gumlines. Pay attention to where the toothbrush is as you brush. Have you covered every tooth? On every exposed surface?
Floss every night before bed.
We know that many people skip flossing. Unfortunately, this allows large clumps of plaque to remain between the teeth. Improving bad breath must include flossing. When you floss, you should wrap the floss in one direction around the side of the tooth and move it gently up and down to clean away all plaque. Then shift the floss the other direction around the neighboring tooth. We call this technique “C-shaped flossing”, and there are some great tutorial videos demonstrating this on YouTube.
Use an antiseptic mouthwash.
A mouthwash can be a great additional tool in removing bacteria from the mouth. It is important to understand that mouthwash is not a replacement for brushing or flossing. It does help to loosen plaque and kill bacteria, but it is not effective enough to be used alone. Make sure you choose an alcohol-free mouthrinse. Alcohol has a drying effect on the mouth, which can actually make bad breath worse over time.
Support good salivary function.
As we just mentioned in the previous paragraph, a dry mouth will make bad breath worse. This is because it allows more bacteria to build up. Our saliva is the body’s natural defense system against plaque and bacteria. In order to support good salivary function, you must stay well-hydrated, avoid large amounts of caffeine or alcohol, and discuss any prescription medications with your dentist. Many medications cause dry mouth as a side effect.
Adding a sugar-free gum to chew after meals can help fight bad breath by stimulating more saliva. This is a great tactic for anyone with healthy TMJs. Make sure you don’t use strong mints that contain sugar. These can cause cavities, which only lead to more bad breath.
What if the Bad Breath Persists?
If you follow all of our recommendations and still have a problem with bad breath, you need to first see your dentist. Because most bad breath originates in the mouth, we need to rule out dental diseases as a potential cause. We will assess your overall oral health and diagnose any gum disease or cavities that could be contributing to a breath problem.
If you get a good report from your dentist, then we will recommend seeking medical attention to determine the underlying cause, whether it is in the nasal passages, respiratory tract or GI tract.
More Questions about Bad Breath?
Call Rockland Dental Specialists to schedule a consultation with one of our dental experts. We can investigate your specific concerns and diagnose the underlying cause of bad breath. After uncovering the cause, we will discuss with you the options available to treat the underlying cause and improve the persistent bad breath.