“I feel like I have bad breath even though I brush. What can I do?!” This is another concern we get from patients, and one they’re very self-conscious about. Bad breath (also referred to as halitosis), is a real self confidence-breaker. We commonly see how it alters people’s behavior, from covering their mouth when talking, to avoiding speaking altogether. Confidence frames success. The great Walt Disney, also saw the importance in confidence:
“Somehow I can’t believe that there are any heights that can’t be scaled by a man who knows the secrets of making dreams come true. This special secret, it seems to me, can be summarized in four Cs. They are curiosity, confidence, courage, and constancy, and the greatest of all is confidence. When you believe in a thing, believe in it all the way, implicitly and unquestionable.”
― Walt Disney
Right. So confidence is key. So let’s get rid of this bad breath !
The source of bad breath is most commonly from different parts of the oral cavity and for different reasons. Who would have thought!? This may seem straightforward, but bad breath can also more infrequently arise from systemic diseases(diabetes, kidney failure), or even infections of the sinuses, throat, and nasal passageways. They are all connected!
The simplest way to get rid of bad breath is to remove the source. Bacteria, food particles, and your own dead cells for starters. Bacteria, especially the anaerobic variety(they don’t need oxygen), produce odorous by-products as they metabolize food. Long standing food particles we miss break down and are utilized by those bacteria we talked about earlier. Finally, while it’s not glamorous, your own mucosal cells slough off at regular intervals(the same way your skin sheds), break down, and decompose if they’re missed when brushing and flossing. Eliminate these three things, and you will be on the road to a fresh smelling, healthy mouth! Now, for the “how” part.
You have to get into all the nooks and crannies of your mouth to make sure bacteria, food, and old cells don’t linger and outstay their welcome and cause malodor. The tongue is THE MOST common cause of bad breath. Tongues are covered in tiny hair like structures called papillae that can trap bacteria and food. All of our genetics are different, but some of our tongues have longer papillae and collect more debris. It’s a little luck of the draw, but the solution here is to get a tongue scraper and scrape and brush your tongue every day! Problem solved!
Okay, now your tongue is immaculate, but you are still self conscious about your breath. The next most common place for bacteria to reside is within the crevices of the gums around and in between teeth. Good brushing and flossing will remove them! Straighter teeth are easier for you to access and clean. Consider braces and your gums may thank you for it! Persistent plaque accumulation around the teeth that isn’t brushed or flossed away will leech minerals like Calcium from your saliva and literally harden themselves. This is what we refer to as tartar or calculus. Once in this hardened state, brushing and flossing WILL NOT remove it. The bacteria have essentially built themselves an impenetrable home. This is the makings of gum disease!
In early stages when the infection is localized to the gums, we refer to it as gingivitis. As it advances deeper into the crevices/pockets around teeth and causes supporting bone to deteriorate irreversibly, we refer to it as periodontitis or periodontal disease. It doesn’t smell pretty! X-rays, and measuring the depths of the pockets(probing) helps us diagnose the severity of the disease. See your dentist immediately as they’re the only ones capable of stopping the process of periodontal disease! The bone lost by gum disease is permanent, so see your dentist if you believe this is you.
Another contributor to bad breath is plain old tooth decay. Again, it goes back to bacteria. Eliminate the bacteria and you will eliminate the odor!
Still smelly? Dry mouth, or xerostomia, can also contribute to bad breath as well. Good saliva flow helps flush the mouth of debris, protecting teeth and gums and preventing the growth of malodorous bacteria. Saliva contains many enzymes and antibacterial compounds that help keep your mouth fresh. If there’s not enough saliva, you become more susceptible to not only bad breath, but also calculus build-up, gum disease, and cavities! Xerostomia can be difficult to manage and a result of systemic disease or medications. See your dentist often to mitigate any issues before they become overwhelming. Prevention is key!
After getting your mouth healthy and clean, proper dental visits and good oral hygiene will help maintain your fresh breath. See your dentist regularly, and consider proven mouthwashes (discussed in Dr. Garcia’s previous blog post: Here) to help flush debris. When in doubt, ask your dentist, so you don’t have to cover your mouth the next time you do!
–Will and Rog