No one likes bad breath. Halitosis, or bad breath, is usually caused by bacteria that live in your mouth. Bad breath can be caused by a variety of foods but can also be caused by medical conditions. So, if you have bad breath, you may consider consulting with your dentist to discuss the cause. Nearly 90 percent of people with bad breath just need better oral hygiene to manage the smelly symptoms. We will focus on how to combat this bacteria with better hygiene.
Why Do Bacteria Cause Bad Breath?
There are many strains of bacteria living in our bodies. In fact, without these bacteria, we couldn’t survive very well. For example, bacteria living in our mouths eat remaining food particles after we eat, and they then produce waste products. Many of these waste products contain volatile sulfur compounds. The word volatile means that particles that easily turn into gas. Sulfur products are famous for smelling awful, some describe like rotten eggs. We all have traces of these sulfur compounds, but they are usually small enough that they go undetected.
Halitosis shows up when there is an overbalance of odor-causing bacteria. These bacteria are called Anaerobic bacteria, and can’t live where there is too much oxygen available, so reducing these conditions in your mouth can alleviate bad breath.
A simple solution is to brush your teeth right after you eat and don’t snack often throughout the day. This will reduce the amount of food the bacteria have access to and will reduce the waste products and the smell simultaneously.
The reason for this is that when we eat, food particles and the bacteria that eats the food, form a thin film on our teeth and tongue we call plaque. Plaque is removed when we brush and floss, so it can’t protect the bacteria from oxygen. When we don’t remove plaque, the bacteria continue to proliferate, causing even worse bad breath.
What Are the Other Causes of Bad Breath?
The Mayo Clinic lists these other common causes of bad breath:
- Gum or periodontal disease is caused by plaque that hardens into tartar and inflames the gums and surrounding bone structures, and pockets of inflammation and infection can cause bad breath.
- Tobacco products, which also contribute to periodontal disease, can add to the bacterial waste products in our mouths, exacerbating halitosis.
- Some food products like onions and garlic also enter our bloodstream as they are digested and are exhaled from our lungs.
- Dry mouth impedes the production of saliva, which continuously removes food particles and cleans the mouth. Dry mouth can be a chronic condition, can be caused by some medications, and is what results in “morning breath” because saliva production slows when we sleep.
- Medications can contribute to or cause dry mouth, and it can also cause the release of chemicals that are exhaled.
- Oral infections produce a particularly offensive odor, and small bits of infection can gather in our tonsils to contribute to bad breath.
- Diseases like cancer and metabolic disorders produce certain chemicals that contribute to halitosis.
How to Prevent and Treat Halitosis
As mentioned earlier, it is a good idea to consult your dentist if you have halitosis to get a clear diagnosis. The best way to prevent and treat halitosis is to engage in good dental hygiene by brushing your teeth after you eat and flossing regularly. But there are other things you can do to sweeten your breath, and your dentist will have access to these treatments.
Eating a well-balanced diet with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables and avoiding processed and refined foods will help set the foundation for fresh breath. Diets that are high in protein are much more popular now than ever before, but a meat-based diet can contribute to bad breath.
Some people turn to mouthwashes and gums to help with their halitosis but be sure to avoid oral rinses that contain alcohol, as they are very drying, and dry mouth is a contributing factor. Sometimes it is actually a good idea to chew gum because chewing helps produce saliva, and the gum itself will scrape away some plaque. But if you are going to chew gum, be sure to chew the gum for a long enough time to counteract any sugary coating that came on the gum. Stopping smoking and excessive drinking can also help treat and sometimes prevent halitosis. But overall, the most helpful thing you can do besides observing great hygiene is to drink plenty of water.
While there are many things that contribute to bad breath, bacteria in the mouth is the most common, and the easiest way to treat and prevent it is to brush and floss regularly and drink plenty of water. If you have brush and floss regularly and follow a balanced diet and your breath is bad, it may be time to consult a dentist.