Bad Breath: It’s Not Just About What You Eat
Halitosis (aka, bad breath) can be embarrassing, but, luckily, it can almost certainly be remedied. There are several reasons why a person may have halitosis, but about 90% of people with chronic halitosis simply need a dental cleaning and oral hygiene instruction by their hygienist or dentist.
What causes halitosis? There is a small pocket between the tooth and the gums. Within that pocket are millions of bacteria; the bacteria’s byproducts release gas, which, subsequently, cause bad breath. A hygienist’s goal is to reduce the bacteria population by reducing the size of the pocket. If the gums and teeth are professionally cleaned the pocket will naturally tighten and shrink, creating a smaller place for bacteria to hide and multiply. To learn more about gum (periodontal) health, click here.
Halitosis causing bacteria also resides on the tongue. Gently, remove bacteria from the tongue with a toothbrush or spoon.
The remaining 10% of people with halitosis may have medical issues that need to be addressed–such as, post-nasal drip, sinus infections, or stomach or esophageal issues. Xerostomia, or dry mouth, also causes halitosis. The most common cause of xerostomia is from prescription medication side effects or an underlying medical condition, but coffee and alcohol are culprits as well. If xerostomia cannot be alleviated by treating an underlying medical problem, or making medication or dietary changes, your dentist may recommend the use of an artificial saliva product.
Of course, what we eat or drink also contributes to the quality of our breath. That spicy sandwich with onion and garlic isn’t going to help any, but sometimes you’ve got to live a little. Our breath doesn’t completely recover from strong smelling foods until the food has left our system, though. So keep a travel-sized toothbrush and toothpaste handy or chew sugarless gum to “disguise” your breath and, hopefully, no one will be the wiser.