Clinically known as halitosis, bad breath can affect almost anyone at some point. The embarrassing odor can be a temporary or persistent condition.
According to research conducted by the American Dental Association, approximately 50 percent of adults will have halitosis during their lifetime.
In addition to the odor, you may also experience a bad taste in your mouth.
Causes of Bad Breath
Bad breath is often caused by poor oral hygiene. Bacteria attempts to break down food particles that are trapped in your teeth and other portions of your mouth. The combination of decaying food and bacteria produces an unpleasant odor.
When you consume food and beverages that have strong odors like garlic, onions and coffee, your stomach absorbs various oils during digestion. These oils travel through your bloodstream and enter your lungs. This metabolic action can produce an odor noticeable to others for up to three days.
Saliva helps to keep your mouth clean and odor free. A dry mouth increases the potential of having bad breath. This is common when you wake up if you sleep with your mouth open. Alcohol consumption can lead to dry mouth as well. Smoking and other tobacco products can also cause bad breath.
Periodontal disease occurs when plaque builds up on the teeth. The plaque hardens into tartar, which traps food and bacteria. In addition to irritating your gums and possibly leading to more serious medical conditions, the trapped food and bacteria fosters bad breath.
Stop smoking and using other tobacco products. Watch what you eat. Cut back on the consumption of alcohol, coffee and sugary drinks as well as foods with strong odors. If you do not have the opportunity to brush your teeth after a meal, drink several glasses of water to help wash away trapped food particles and harmful bacteria. Eat a healthy balanced diet, and avoid sugary snacks.
Chew sugarless gum for approximately 20 minutes after a meal to help increase the flow of saliva. This simple technique reduces the risk of developing cavities. The gum will also provide minty fresh-smelling breath. While sugarless mints may temporarily mask bad breath, they do not remove the harmful bacteria. Avoid gum and mints with sugar that can sit on your teeth making the problem worse.
Longer Term Treatment Options
Good oral hygiene is essential for preventing halitosis as 80 percent of bad breath comes from sources in your mouth. These include cavities and gum disease. While you should ideally floss and brush after every meal, it is helpful to brush twice a day and floss at least once. Remember to clean your tongue. Use an antimicrobial mouthwash to kill bacteria.
It is also important to visit your dentist on a regular basis for checkups and teeth cleanings. You should visit the dentist at least every six months. This will help eliminate plaque that can trap bacteria and reduce the chance of periodontal disease. During the visit, the team will recommend proper brushing techniques for the best home care, which may include the use of an electric toothbrush. Your dentist can also help to determine if your bad breath is caused by another underlying medical condition.