However, when regular oral hygiene doesn’t help, you may have a problem. “There’s a difference between noticing that your breath isn’t fresh and chronic bad breath that doesn’t go away no matter how hard you brush or floss,” says New York City cosmetic dentist Brian Kantor, DDS. The latter is what’s known as halitosis, and according to Fariba S. Younai, DDS, professor of clinical dentistry at UCLA, to qualify as having it, your bad breath must also be detected by someone other than yourself. Hmmmortifying a lot?
If you’re one of the 25 percent of people who suffer from halitosis, it’s important to get to the root of the problem, not just to stop it, but because your bad breath may be trying to tell you something about your oral health or habits.
Read on to learn about the common causes of bad breath and what to do about each one.
1. Poor oral hygiene and dental problems
This type of bad breath is typically characterized, according to Dr. Younai, by a rotten egg odor due to the nature of the gases involved, specifically sulfur. Studies show that in 85 percent of cases, the cause is intraoral (as a result of gum disease or a bacteria-infested coating). And according to research, that’s because the tongue provides an ideal environment for pathogen buildup. If you’re not already on the tongue scraping train, it’s time you jumped on it: A 2004 study showed that the practice reduces the aforementioned layer of bacteria, thereby improving odor.
Bacterial debris trapped between teeth or decaying teeth are also common culprits in halitosis. Sure, brushing and flossing can help, but it’s crucial that you visit the dentist regularly (once or twice a year) for a deep cleaning. “Dentists can clean under the tissue and small areas that brushing and flossing at home don’t reach, which will help remove odor caused by cavities and debris left behind for long periods of time,” said Dr. Dr says Kantor.
2. Severe dry mouth
Some medications, like antidepressants, as well as other factors like stress and, well, just aging, can cause halitosis because they disrupt the natural production of saliva, a critical cleaning component of the mouth’s ecosystem. “Whenever natural saliva flow is inhibited, as is the case with certain medications, natural bacteria are allowed to have a field day in food substances attached to the teeth,” he says. Dr. Kantor. “Normal salivary flow removes much of this bacterial food complex.”
If the cause is Rx related, you may not be able to dispose of your prescription. But Dr. Kantor cautions that he can mitigate the situation by being picky about his oral hygiene products. He recommends avoiding mouthwashes that contain alcohol, as this will further dry out your mouth and allow bacteria to multiply and thrive. Instead, he opts for a mouthwash intended for halitosis, which will keep the balance of saliva and bacteria in check.
3. Medical conditions
Although the smell of rotten eggs is more common, halitosis can also smell fishy, overly sweet, urine or acetone. And these unpleasant odors can have causes No related to your oral health, rather than hinting at a more serious underlying condition, including diabetes (acetone, candy), metabolic problems in the intestines (fish), kidney or liver failure (urine or fish), or endocrine conditions. (Know, however, that these links are rare, and experts suggest you seek dental care before assuming they’re at fault.)
Dr. Kantor and Dr. Younai agree that the first step in diagnosing such an underlying condition is to eliminate the causes related to your oral hygiene by visiting your dentist. “Dental problems are by far the most common reason for malodour and therefore should be ruled out before considering any systemic health problems,” notes Dr. Younai. But if you’ve leveled up your home dental care game and are yet If you’re constantly being asked if you want a piece of gum, you may need to schedule a QT with your GP.
Originally published on January 3, 2018
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