What Causes Bad Breath?
The short answer is bacteria.
The long answer is that bacteria, collecting in different forms in countless areas of the mouth, emit foul-smelling gases known as volatile sulfur compounds (VSCs). It is normal for our mouths to contain bacteria. A healthy mouth has a balance of good microorganisms and saliva. When there is an imbalance, and unhealthy bacteria take over, bad breath often results.
These unhealthy bacteria are particularly prone to collect in both soft dental plaque and hard tartar on the teeth and in pockets between the teeth roots and gums. For this reason, the most common causes of bad breath are large cavities and chronic gum disease because they harbor large deposits of bacteria.
Bacteria can also accumulate in the deep grooves and pits of normal oral anatomy, including the back of the tongue and the tonsils.
What Factors Put You at Higher Risk for Bad Breath?
Even in a healthy mouth, some people suffer from consistent bad breath. There are several risk factors that make you more likely to have stinky breath. If any of the following apply to you, it is likely that you have bad breath.
Lack of Dental Care
As we described earlier, the underlying cause of bad breath is large deposits of bacteria. When you see your dentist consistently and have professional teeth cleanings on a regular basis, you simply do not have as much bacteria in your mouth. The fewer bacteria there are, the less odor they can produce.
The opposite is also true: the more bacteria present in your mouth, the more odor they can produce. When you lack consistent dental care, you are likely to suffer from large bacterial deposits throughout the mouth.
Poor Oral Hygiene
Between dental visits, your job is to continue cleaning the teeth and gums so that bacteria does not accumulate in large amounts. If you forego your daily oral hygiene, you are allowing more and more bacteria to collect every day. This buildup does not smell good. Don’t believe us? Take a whiff of your floss the next time you use it.
Brushing and flossing consistently are necessary to prevent large clumps of bacteria from gathering on the teeth in the form of dental plaque.
A dry mouth is particularly susceptible to bad breath because it is particularly susceptible to increased bacterial buildup. A dry mouth is one that lacks adequate salivary flow. Saliva performs many essential functions in the mouth, one of which is fighting bacteria and plaque buildup. Without a healthy flow of saliva, bacteria easily overgrow.
Dry mouth is a double whammy where bad breath is concerned because it also increases the risk for cavities and gum disease.
Use of Tobacco Products
Tobacco products, especially smoking, lead to bad breath. Smoking not only deposits tobacco onto the teeth; it also dries the mouth. Smoking leads to a dry, acidic mouth, which is prone to cavities and gum disease. Smoker’s breath has a unique odor that blends cigarettes with oral bacteria. It is definitely an unpleasant odor.
In rare cases, the cause of bad breath could be a metabolic disorder. If the breath smells like acetone or unusually sweet, you should see your medical doctor for testing and diagnosis of a problem with your metabolism. These are rare, but they do create a characteristic smell.
How Can You Tell if You Have Bad Breath?
As we mentioned in the introduction, many people remain unaware of their bad breath. For some unexplained reason, it is almost impossible for someone to smell his or her own breath. This means that we have to rely on others.
One way to attempt discerning the state of your own breath that may work in these unusual times is considering the smell of your masks. If you notice that your masks consistently have a bad odor, it could be an indication of bad breath.
The very best way to determine how your breath smells is to ask someone you trust. This must be a person whom you know will be honest with you. Many people sidestep these questions to avoid hurting your feelings. If you aren’t sure about the answer you get from an adult, ask a child. They typically have no trouble telling the truth in situations like this!
You can also ask your dentist this question. Dental professionals are more familiar with bad breath than anyone, and they have lots of cases to compare yours with.
What Can You Do about Bad Breath?
In order to fight bad breath, you have to fight bacteria. The good news is that this fight will also improve your oral health and your overall health, so it is a worthwhile battle!
Seek Consistent Dental Care
Seeing your dentist regularly for preventive dental care can fight bad breath before it even starts. The professional teeth cleaning process removes all bacterial buildup from the teeth and gums.
If you already have dental disease, like large cavities or chronic gum disease, you can make great strides in ridding yourself of bad breath by following through with the recommended dental treatment.
Perform Great Oral Hygiene at Home
After the dentist gives you a clean slate, your job is to keep it clean! To ensure that large deposits of bacteria don’t simply collect again, you must commit to twice daily brushing and flossing every single night. If you do not floss regularly, just assume you have bad breath because you are leaving bacteria and food debris in dental plaque between the teeth every day, and it does not go away on its own!
Treat Dry Mouth
Dry mouth is a topic for its own article because there are many causes and treatments. In general, you must drink plenty of water so that your salivary glands can produce enough saliva. Avoid alcohol, caffeine, and high sugar levels, which tend to dehydrate. Chew sugar-free gum between meals to stimulate natural saliva production, and use salivary replacements as needed. (You can find these in the toothpaste aisle at your pharmacy and grocery stores.)
There is nothing good about tobacco use. Because of the many health problems it can cause, we recommend that every person quit as soon as possible. We know that quitting is not easy, but we also know that it is the best thing for you. In regards to our current topic, it will be an immediate breath freshener, too!
More Questions about Bad Breath?
Call your nearest Premier Dental of Ohio location today to schedule a consultation with one of our board-certified dentists. We can assess your situation and help you back on the road to fresh breath!