Bad breath can be more than just an inconvenience. Along with providing a feeling of discomfort and or uncleanliness, bad breath can be a significant source of social anxiety.
And while occasional or mild bad breath can be a result of the choices we make, persistent or chronic bad breath, called halitosis, can be an indication of an underlying dental problem. If brushing and mouthwash aren’t solving your problem, you may need to consult your dentist.
Defining Bad Breath
Simply put, halitosis occurs when your breath has a noticeably foul smell to it. About 90 percent of the time the source is located in the mouth itself, but bad breath can also result from issues in the stomach or throat. About one out of every four people suffer from chronic bad breath to varying levels of severity.
One of the most common causes of bad breath is the breakdown of food particles in the mouth, particularly if the meal itself was somewhat pungent – garlic and onions may be tasty, but their presence tends to linger long after they’re gone.
If your oral hygiene regimen is too brief or not thorough enough, food particles may remain, giving bacteria something on which to feed and create a foul odor. Thankfully, if this is the cause of your bad breath, more strident brushing and flossing can usually solve the problem.
Saliva is one of the main ways your mouth cleanses itself of particulates. But if something is affecting your mouth’s ability to produce saliva, bad breath can be a result.
Things like tobacco and alcohol use can dry out the mouth, but other issues like salivary gland problems, some forms of medication, and breathing through the mouth due to clogged sinuses can reduce the amount of moisture in your mouth, giving bacteria more time to spread.
Since the bacteria that typically causes bad breath tends to collect in areas that can’t be reached by brushing, bad breath can be an indicator of tooth decay – as a tooth degrades, more recesses and pockets are created in which bacteria can reside. In this case, even a thorough brushing might not get rid of the bad odor.
In severe instances, as decay spreads to the pulp of a tooth, this can result in the pulp dying, which also gives off a foul smell.
Gum Disease and Other Serious Medical Conditions
Persistent bad breath or a constant bad taste in your mouth can also be a warning sign of gum disease. As plaque is formed and accumulates, it often enflames the gums. This creates more areas for bacteria to accumulate; in advanced stages, the bone under your gum layer will begin receding from the teeth, creating even more places for bacteria to gather.
Although not oral related, there are several other serious health conditions that do occasionally cause bad breath, including:
- Chronic liver failure
- Renal infection
- Diabetes mellitus
- Gastric reflux
- Sinus conditions
How Dr. Herrick’s Office Can Help
If persistent bad breath has become an issue for you, one of the most important steps you should start with is a thorough, professional cleaning. Our friendly and professional staff will clean your teeth to a level beyond what simple brushing and flossing can achieve. And if an underlying condition is causing your bad breath, seeing a dentist is the quickest way to identify the problem.« Back to blog