No one wants to have bad breath. It is an embarrassing problem that can affect your work life and personal relationships. It isn’t just an embarrassing problem, though. It could indicate an underlying serious health problem.
Halitosis is the scientific term for chronic, severe bad breath. The underlying cause is typically bacterial in nature. Certain bacteria produce smelly gases as a by-product, and when these bacteria are present in the nasal passages, mouth, respiratory tract, or GI tract, they can lead to serious bad breath. Here are some of the most common sources of persistent bad breath.
Cavities are bacterial infections of the hard structures of the teeth. As bacteria soften and penetrate enamel, they destroy it and the underlying dentin as they progress inward. Eventually, this leads to an actual hole in the tooth.
The holes created by deep decay are collection sites for large amounts of bacteria and food debris. The decay itself also consists of large amounts of bacteria. Big cavities do not smell good!
Gum disease destroys the structures surrounding the teeth. As the disease worsens, deep pockets develop between the roots of the teeth and the jawbone and gums. These pockets collect bacteria, and they are impossible to clean with simple brushing and flossing.
Active gum disease typically causes bad breath due to the large deposits of bacteria in the deep pockets surrounding the teeth.
Dental plaque is also a source of bad breath because it contains bacteria capable of producing smelly gases. Even if you clean your teeth very effectively and consistently, you may develop plaque buildup in the deep pits and grooves at the back of the tongue or on the tonsils. These areas are difficult to clean and can lead to persistent bad breath.
Chronic sinus infections also can cause a bad breath odor due to large amounts of bacteria in the sinus cavities, which communicate with the airway. Especially in the case of post-nasal drip, these odors can come out through the mouth during exhaling or speaking.
A specific infection of the stomach, caused by the bacteria H. pylori, is also a potential cause of halitosis. Because this odor originates in the stomach, it will not respond to quick fixes like mouthwash, breath mints or chewing gum. Many patients are unaware of this problem and find out only after testing for this specific infection.
Some people experience a specific type of bad breath commonly referred to as “keto breath”. Ketosis is a metabolic state that people enter either purposefully as a part of a diet or as a consequence of a metabolic disorder. Keto breath is often described as “sickly sweet”. Ketosis is not a healthy metabolic state to be in long-term.
Over ninety percent of bad breath originates in the oral cavity, and most of it is the result of dental infections, which involve large accumulations of bacteria. That means that if you or a loved one are experiencing persistent bad breath, the first place to start is with your dentist.
You should undergo a thorough dental evaluation to identify any untreated dental disease contributing to the bad odor. Once any active dental infections receive the proper treatment, the breath instantly improves.
Your dentist and dental hygienist will also instruct you on good oral hygiene techniques to help you remove plaque consistently. Less plaque always equates to better breath. It is important to have your dentist rule out these common causes of bad breath.
If you have bad breath that persists despite having great oral health and a good report from your dentist, you should seek care from your medical doctor. The medical doctor will identify any warning signs of chronic sinus problems, GI issues, or metabolic disorders that could be the underlying cause of your halitosis. Your primary care provider may refer you to see a specialist for diagnosis and treatment, so be prepared to go see an ENT or gastroenterologist if needed.
Call Rockland Dental Specialists to schedule a consultation with our dental experts. We can answer any question you have about halitosis and evaluate your mouth for sources of bad odors. We love helping our patients achieve and maintain fresh breath! Call us at (845) 259-2500 or complete our online contact form today!