Posted on: 31 October, 2023
Bad breath can be embarrassing, but it can sometimes be a sign of a serious problem
3 minute read
Bad breath affects everyone from time to time, especially when waking up in the morning or after eating or drinking something with a strong odour, like onions. This type of bad breath is usually temporary and goes away when you rinse your mouth or brush your teeth.
If bad breath persists throughout the day, however, this can be a sign of an underlying problem that needs more than breath mints or mouthwash to treat.
If you're concerned about bad breath, the best person to talk to is your dentist. They can check your mouth for signs of problems, offer professional advice and provide preventive care or other treatments to help freshen your breath and restore your confidence.
Halitosis is the medical name for persistent bad breath. It can be a problem it affects how you feel about your interactions with other people. In some cases, it may also be a symptom of another condition that requires treatment.
Halitosis is not infectious and can usually be prevented by improving your oral hygiene, diet or lifestyle habits. As it can be hard to judge your own breath odour, your dentist can diagnose whether you have halitosis and will aim to determine the likely cause and effective treatment options.
There are many possible reasons for halitosis. Bad breath may have a single cause or may be due to multiple factors, all of which will need to be addressed to make the problem go away. Common causes include:
Without careful brushing and flossing, leftover food can be trapped between teeth and bacteria can build up on tooth surfaces and the tongue. This can lead to odours being released which are carried on the breath. Prosthetic teeth such as dentures and dental implants can also cause halitosis if they're not kept clean.
The smell of cigarettes and other tobacco products can stay in the mouth and be breathed out from the lungs for hours after smoking. Tobacco use can also contribute to halitosis less directly by increasing the risk of oral diseases such as gum disease.
Foods and drinks with strong flavours – such as onions, garlic, spices and coffee – also tend to have strong odours. These odours don't just stay in the mouth – they can also be carried to the lungs after the food is digested and compounds enter the bloodstream, which can affect breath for an extended period.
Saliva helps to cleanse the mouth of bacteria and food particles. Problems with the salivary glands can cause a condition called dry mouth, which reduces saliva flow and contributes to bad breath and other oral health problems.
Infections or inflammation in and around the mouth can result in bad breath. This includes oral diseases such as tooth decay and gum disease, tooth pulp infections, mouth sores, infections following oral surgery and postnasal drip caused by infection or inflammation of the nose, throat or sinuses.
In some cases, particularly with children, bad breath may be caused by pieces of food or other objects that get lodged in a nostril or in the throat. Small stones can also form in the tonsils and become covered by odour-producing bacteria.
The cause of bad breath isn't always found in the mouth, but can begin elsewhere in the body. Certain medical conditions that produce odorous chemicals can also affect the breath, including gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and some types of cancers and metabolic disorders.
A number of medications can also lead to halitosis, either by contributing to dry mouth or by producing odorous chemicals in the body that affect the breath.
While chewing gum and sprays may freshen breath temporarily, treatment for halitosis should address the root cause of the problem. This may involve a combination of daily home care and dental treatments.
The first step in treating persistent bad breath and preventing it from returning is improving your daily oral care routine to help keep your teeth and gums clean and healthy. For most people, dentists recommend:
Your dentist may also recommend using a daily mouthwash or antibacterial toothpaste to reduce bacteria in your mouth.
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Avoiding food and drinks with strong odours could make an immediate improvement in your breath.
Cutting down on sugar in your diet can also reduce the growth of bacteria and help prevent problems such as tooth decay and gum disease linked with bad breath.
Quitting smoking and cutting down on alcohol can also significantly reduce breath odours and related problems such as dry mouth.
If halitosis is caused by an oral health condition, your dentist will recommend appropriate treatments – whether this involves replacing faulty dentures or other restorations, periodontal treatment for advanced gum disease, or a saliva substitute to treat chronic dry mouth.
If the cause of halitosis is thought to be related to an underlying health condition or medication you're taking, your dentist will recommend talking to your doctor.
If you're worried about bad breath and want to make it go away, make an appointment with our dentists at EVP Dental to find out your options. Call our friendly team today on (08) 9470 3944 or book an appointment online and we'll get back to you as quickly as we can.