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Bad Breath Treatment
What is Halitosis?
Everyone occasionally experiences halitosis (bad breath). For example, morning breath is a common condition caused by the reduced saliva flow at night (saliva helps wash away food and bacteria in the mouth, keeping the breath fresh). In most cases, bad breath is temporary and not considered abnormal. However, persistent bad breath can signal dental or other health problems and should be addressed.
How can I find out if I have halitosis?
People are almost never able to detect when their breath is unpleasant because the nose becomes adapted to one’s own smell. Our dentists can help you assess whether you have a problem with bad breath. Dentists receive extensive training in dental school on identifying and treating the many different causes of halitosis.
What are the causes of halitosis?
Some of the causes of bad breath include:
- Inadequate dental hygiene. In most cases bad breath originates in the oral cavity. Even a healthy mouth contains millions of bacteria. The moist, warm conditions in the mouth are an ideal environment for bacteria to thrive. Without regular and thorough brushing and flossing, food particles will remain in the mouth, creating an unpleasant odor as they break down.
- Periodontal (gum) disease. Chronic halitosis can also be a warning sign of periodontal (gum) disease. Plaque, an invisible film of bacteria, regularly forms in the mouth. As plaque builds up it can create toxins that irritate the gums, causing an infection that can lead to tooth loss if left unchecked. Regular dental checkups can help ensure that periodontal disease is detected and treated early.
- Dry mouth (xerostomia). Another cause of bad breath is dry mouth. Saliva helps neutralize bacteria and wash away food particles. Therefore, conditions that cause dry mouth (including diabetes, Sjögren’s syndrome and conditions that require radiation therapy) or certain medications (such as drugs for allergies, depression and high blood pressure) can lead to bad breath. If dry mouth is identified as the cause of your halitosis you can help keep your mouth moist by increasing your fluid intake. Your dentist may also prescribe artificial saliva or a special rinse.
- Infections of the respiratory tract. Bad breath can be a symptom of respiratory-tract infections like infections of the throat, lungs or sinus cavity. Respiratory-tract infections will usually be accompanied by symptoms like sore throat, fever, stuffy nose, swollen lymph nodes (swollen glands), yellowish or greenish nasal discharge or mucus-producing cough. After reviewing your symptoms and medical history, your dentist may refer you to a medical doctor for additional treatment.
- Systemic illnesses. In rare cases, halitosis may indicate an underlying systemic illness such as diabetes, liver disease, lung disease, kidney disease or acid reflux. Your dentist can help identify the source of your halitosis and refer you for additional tests or treatment, if necessary.
- Cigarette smoking and chewing tobacco.
- Certain foods and beverages. Foods like garlic and onions are absorbed into the bloodstream and eventually expelled from the lungs. Mints and mouthwash mask the odor, but this is just a temporary fix. Dieters, especially those on a high-protein diet, also sometimes suffer from halitosis.
Your dentist will conduct a thorough exam and medical history in order to determine the source of your bad breath problems.
What can I do to keep my breath fresh?
Here are some suggestions to keep your breath fresh:
- Maintain good dental hygiene—brush your teeth, gums and tongue at least twice per day and floss once per day. Use a tongue scraper, cleaning as far back on the tongue as possible, to remove mucus and bacteria.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Visit your dentist at least twice per year for a professional dental examination and cleaning.
- Chew sugar-free gum or suck on sugarless candy.
- Eat foods like raw carrots and celery.
Your dentist may also recommend specific oral rinses or prescription products.
At New Hampshire Center for Comprehensive Dentistry, our dentists are experienced in identifying and treating the many different causes of halitosis. We will ask you about your personal habits, diet and medical history, as well as the history of your symptoms. Then, after a thorough examination, you and your dentist will create a personalized treatment plan so you can be confident that your breath is fresh and pleasant to others.
Feel free to contact us with your questions about bad breath or to schedule an oral health consultation with one of our dentists.