Some topics are a little hard to broach, especially if we feel ashamed or embarrassed. Bad breath can be that way. It leaves us ignoring a social issue that’s easily eliminated with the right approach. Or we might try masking our breath with tricks that encourage more problems to develop. Understanding the causes of mouth odors marks the first step to finding an effective solution.
What Makes That Smell?
In the world around us, wind moves across the landscape and picks up invisible odor molecules generated from the dynamic environment it passes through. Whether it’s the sweetness of lavender or the stench of rotting vegetation, these microscopic particles reach our noses, bind to receptors, and send a message.
As we breathe, the rush of air moves across the lining of our airway and mouth. Just like a breeze outside, breath picks up odors and sends a message to those in its path. Your diet can contribute by adding odors from compounds absorbed into your bloodstream. Think garlic breath, a smell which often excretes through your pores, too!
In some cases, bad breath results from medical conditions like diabetes, chronic bronchitis, liver disease, or respiratory tract infections. Certain medications may also contribute to the problem by altering saliva production and causing a dry mouth. If you suspect any of these possibilities, be sure to talk to your medical doctor.
The Real Culprit
Studies show that about 80% of bad breath cases result directly from the mouth and the bacteria thriving there. Millions of oral bacteria produce sulfur gases and other compounds that smell unpleasant. Since it’s challenging to detect your own breath, try sniffing floss after you’ve used it to get an idea of lurking odors.
Cavities, gum disease, unclean dentures, or tonsil problems may all contribute to this nagging relationship inhibitor. Stay on schedule with your preventive dental visits to be sure any disease activity is eliminated. Untreated gum disease is also the number one cause of tooth loss in adults. Together we can stop bad breath and help you keep your smile healthy.
Sometimes you’re practicing excellent oral hygiene but still feel frustrated by unpleasant mouth odors. If you’ve eliminated the other possibilities, it’s time to take a better look at your tongue. The top of the tongue is covered in a forest of papillae, projections that support taste buds and provide a textured surface to aid tactile sensation. But the velvety surface traps dead cells, food debris, and bacteria. Sulfur gases produced by bacteria contribute to the odiferous mix, and a coating forms across the tongue. When this coating thickens, your taste may also be altered as the odor intensifies.
An Odor Killer
Even though you remember to brush and floss, don’t forget the benefits of cleaning your tongue at least once a day. Scrubbing with a brush helps a little, but a tongue cleaner is a unique device that you draw gently across the surface of the tongue. Like a gentle rake, it removes the debris embedded in the papillae. Finishing with an anti-bacterial mouthwash may help freshen your breath. Be aware that many rinses contain alcohol and could dry out your mouth and exacerbate the issue. Dr. O’Grady, a dentist in Denver, CO, says a fluoride rinse is often the best choice, while other patients benefit from mouthwashes formulated specifically for difficult bad breath cases. Rather than briefly masking odors, these mild rinses neutralize sulfur gases. We can discuss the options and customize a choice for you.
Be careful with other masking techniques such as sugared mints or candies. Excess sugar exposure can quietly create an environment where cavities thrive and cause bigger problems. If you like using mints, look for those sweetened with xylitol. Xylitol tastes great and works to destroy cavity-causing bacteria.
If you keep regular visits with your hygienist, you’ll always have a partner for excellent oral health. Finding the right strategies and tools will keep your teeth and gums healthy….and your breath fresh as the summer breeze!