Are You Worried About Bad Breath?

Learn Everything You Need to Know to Beat It!

This week I’d like to talk about something that can have as much of an effect on your social life as it does on your health: bad breath. The causes of bad breath (halitosis) are much more complex than you might imagine, and understanding what causes unpleasant mouth odors can help you make sure you never have them.

Consider the following scenario: for her New Year’s resolution, Julia decided that she wanted to lose ten pounds by the end of January. To speed up the process, she started running regularly, though sometimes that meant running in snow and cold wind, and she sometimes skipped meals. By the end of the month, though things at work were a little stressful (for other reasons) and she’d developed a bit of a cold from exercising in bad weather, she was able to step on the scale and feel triumphant. One thing she’d started noticing, however, was that her mouth tasted funny sometimes, and that people frequently offered her a sticks of chewing gum. Finally, one of her friends horrified her by telling her she had bad breath. She knows that sometimes she’s been too busy to brush and floss thoroughly, but she’s a regular mouthwash user. And she’s got a date tonight. This is not good.

What happened? And what can she do?

What Julia is experiencing here is a kind of perfect storm of halitosis causes. We tend to think of bad breath as something that smelly foods like garlic and onions cause, but things are much more complex. Let me itemize all the things Julia is doing and experiencing that may be contributing factors in her new bad breath:

1. Skipping meals. Infrequent eating can cause halitosis because it leads to reduced saliva production in the mouth. The production of saliva is necessary to help wash away and eliminate bacteria. Severe dieting may also lead to fruity-smelling breath, causes by keto-acidosis, and the breakdown of fatty acids that happens with prolonged fasting.

2. Respiratory illness. The little head cold Julia developed as a result of running in cold weather could be contributing to her bad breath. Post-nasal drip, an accumulation of mucus in the back of the throat, can cause an unpleasant or offensive odor.

3. Stress. Julia’s anxieties at work might be causing her to have dry mouth, which causes a similar decrease in saliva production to that experienced by dieters. This in turn leads to a buildup of the bacteria the create odors.

4. Improper brushing and flossing. The most common cause of halitosis is improper oral hygiene. Food particles can get trapped in your teeth and gums and collect bacteria, which smells. In addition, those food particles can begin to rot, again releasing unpleasant odors. It is important to brush and floss regularly (as that bacteria also causes tooth decay) and remember to brush your tongue!

5. What is Julia eating? The food you eat affects how your breath smells. This is partly because food particles that remain in your mouth continue to smell (garlic, onions, and strongly flavored meat are #1 culprits), and partly because as the foods you’ve eaten get absorbed into your bloodstream, they are transferred to the lungs and released when you exhale. Mouthwash is purely cosmetic: the odors will not go away fully until your body has processed and expelled the odiferous foods.

As you can see, bad breath can result from many different causes; the best prevention is to eat healthfully and regularly, to brush your teeth and floss consistently, to get respiratory illnesses treated, and, if you’re feeling stressed, to stay hydrated. Julia will be fine once her job calms down and she starts back on her regular eating schedule. Looking slim in her new dress is minor; having a clean, healthy, odor free mouth and sparkling smile is everything.

Remember, bad breath is not only an annoyance; it can actually be symptomatic of problems with your oral hygiene!

If you think you may have a problem with bad breath, or you’d just like to consult with a dentist about your oral health in general, click here to schedule a free consultation with me!

Next week we’ll talk about another cosmetic issue with health implications: dentures.

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