Halitosis, or chronic bad breath, is an oral health condition that is resistant to common bad breath remedies. Unlike morning breath or a strong smell that lingers after garlic or a tuna sandwich, halitosis remains for an extended amount of time and may be a sign of a more serious underlying health condition.
There can be several causes of halitosis. Your dentist and doctor will work together to confirm a diagnosis. Halitosis may be caused by the following:
- Diet – When you eat onions, garlic, and other foods with strong odors your stomach may absorb those oils during digestion. These oils may pass into the bloodstream and travel through your lungs that can produce an odor that may last up to 72 hours. This also includes beverages such as coffee.
- Dry mouth – Dry mouth may occur if you are unable to create enough saliva which helps to keep your mouth clean and reduce odor-producing bacteria. Dry mouth may also be a problem if you sleep with your mouth open or take certain medications.
- Periodontal disease – Gum disease, or periodontal disease, occurs as a result of improper cleaning causing plaque to build up and harden into tartar. Tartar can irritate your gums causing swelling and deep pockets to form between your teeth and gums. Food, bacteria, and dental plaque can collect in these pockets and cause a foul odor in your mouth.
- Poor oral hygiene – Without proper and regular brushing, routine dental exams, and daily flossing, harmful bacteria and left-over food can build up within your mouth and cause an unpleasant odor or taste to develop. This also includes the improper cleaning of oral appliances such as dentures. If not cleaned correctly, these appliances can provide the perfect environment for bacteria, fungi, and remaining food to cause bad breath.
- Sinus, mouth, and throat condition – Bad breath odor may develop if you have a sinus infection, postnasal drip, chronic bronchitis, or an infection in your upper or lower respiratory system.
- Tobacco – Using tobacco products can stain the teeth and leave their odor on your breath. Using tobacco products also increases your risk for dry mouth and gum disease.
- Underlying medical conditions – Unusual breath odor may also be a symptom of an underlying condition such as kidney disease, diabetes, or GERD.
How is halitosis diagnosed?
Your dentist may smell your breath during a routine exam, or you can bring up your concerns during an appointment. Your dentist will then ask questions about your oral health habits, the types of food you eat, or any medical conditions you may have. If you snore or take medication, be sure to tell your dentist as well as this can help in providing a proper diagnosis.
If your dentist is unable to determine the cause or if your bad breath is not caused by any oral health conditions, your dentist will refer you to your doctor for a more thorough examination to determine the cause of the odor.
Your treatment will vary depending on the cause of your bad breath. For example, if your halitosis is caused by plaque buildup or periodontal disease, your dentist may begin treating you with a deep cleaning. Your dentist may also recommend a change in your oral health habits to ensure your bad breath does not return.
If your halitosis is caused by an underlying health condition, treatment for the condition may be able to improve your bad breath. Staying hydrated or using an artificial saliva product can also help if dry mouth is the cause of your bad breath.
Can you prevent halitosis?
You can lower your risk for developing halitosis by implementing the following into your routine:
- Clean your oral appliances daily.
- Practice good oral health habits by brushing and flossing daily. Remember to brush your tongue, cheeks, and roof of your mouth as well to prevent buildup.
- Replace your toothbrush every three months.
- Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water throughout the day.
- Use a tongue scraper to remove bacteria that may produce bad odors.
- Use an antimicrobial mouthwash daily to kill bacteria.
As always, we also recommend attending routine dental exams every six months or at the discretion of your dentist. These exams enable us to catch problems early on before they become a more serious problem. For more information on halitosis or to schedule an appointment, please contact Leslie B. Anthony, DMD today.