Bad Breath: How your Dentist can Help

By Dr Joseph Xuereb, Dental Surgeon. Published on April 20th, 2018

Are you battling with bad breath? According to research, bad breath, or halitosis, affects approximately 25% of people. It is the third most common reason why people pursue dental care. After gum disease and tooth decay. Halitosis can cause significant worry, anxiety, and embarrassment. This article discusses the possible causes, how your Dentist can help treat bad breath, and how to prevent it.

Always, always smile.
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How Can I Tell If I Have Bad Breath?

Most of the time, it is impossible for people to know that they have foul breath. This is because they have become so accustomed to their scent that they are unable to determine whether it is foul or fresh. The best way to know if you have bad breath is to ask a loved one or a trusted friend.

What Are The Causes Of Halitosis (Bad Breath)?

Determining the cause of bad breath is the first step to treating it.

Bacteria. Halitosis can happen to anyone as many forms of bacteria live in our mouths. Your mouth provides the perfect breeding ground for bacteria. Each time you eat, the bacteria feed off the food particles left in the mouth and leave a foul-smelling waste behind.

Dry Mouth. Your mouth produces saliva, which naturally cleans off any food particles left behind. If your mouth dries up naturally, or if it dries up due to certain medical conditions or medication taken, a bad odour may build up.

Denture image.
Photo by Yingpis Kalayom on Unsplash.

Gum Disease. Poor oral hygiene and gum disease can cause bad breath. The food particles that remain in your mouth can collect odorous bacteria if you do not brush and floss your teeth daily. This buildup eventually leads to the formation of a colourless, gummy film of bacteria, known as plaque. This plaque, unless brushed away, may irritate your gums and cause tooth decay, thereby resulting in bad breath.

Food. Food particles between your teeth can cause bad breath. Some foods that cause bad breath include onions and garlic. Once they are broken down, they are transported through the blood to the lungs, where they can affect your breath.

Smoking and Tobacco. Tobacco products cause their type of mouth odour, stain your teeth and increase your risk of multiple health problems. Smoking also increases your risk of developing gum disease which causes halitosis.

Cigarette butts.
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Medical Conditions. Some medical conditions like liver failure, cancer, and other metabolic illnesses can cause bad breath due to the chemical mixes they produce. Gastrointestinal Problems, such as GERD (Gastroesophageal reflux disease) causes halitosis as a result of regular reflux of your stomach acids.

How Does What You Eat Affect Breath?

All the food you eat begins digestion in your mouth. Hence, if you eat foods with strong scents, like garlic or onions, regular brushing and flossing may not be able to cover up all the odour. The odour may only go away after the foods have passed through your body.

Garlic is your friend.
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How Can Your Dentist Treat Bad Breath?

Since bad breath is almost always caused by a problem in your mouth, visiting a dentist can help treat the condition. If your bad odour is as a result of gum disease, your dentist may conduct professional cleaning to remove the bacteria and plaque buildup, especially if the pockets are deep. In severe cases, your dentist may suggest more extensive treatment.

To prevent the development of further bad breath, your dentist may recommend a specific mouthwash that will help control the growth of odour-causing bacteria.

How To Prevent Bad Breath

Brush + Floss. Brush your teeth at least two times a day, preferably after each meal. Since brushing only cleans around 60% of the surface of the tooth, couple it up with the flossing. Flossing lessens the build-up of food particles and plaque between the teeth.

Check And Clean Your Tongue. Do not forget to take care of your tongue when cleaning your teeth. When you stick your tongue out and look way back, you will see a white or brown coating. That is where most of that bad breath comes from. Use your brush or a tongue scraper to scrape off the buildup.

Toothbrush image.
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Mouthwash. Mouthwash can help kill or neutralise bacteria, temporarily masking the bad breath. Preferably, go for a mouthwash with triclosan, cetylpyridinium chloride, chlorhexidine, chlorine dioxide, and zinc chloride. These ingredients have been clinically proven to reduce bad breath.

Keep Saliva Flowing. When your mouth is not producing enough saliva, it is not able to wash off food debris, leading to halitosis. Drinking a lot of water helps to keep your mouth clean and your body correctly hydrated. Also, eating healthy foods like carrots or apples that necessitate a lot of chewing can get more saliva moving into your mouth.

Quit Smoking. Giving up smoking is beneficial to your health in multiple ways. For starters, you will not only have better breath but also enjoy a better quality of life.

Follow A Healthy Diet. Sugary foods and drinks increase the build-up of bacteria in your mouth. Hence, cutting down on these foods will help keep off bad breath.

Preventing Bad Breath With Denture

If you wear dentures, you are advised to take them off at night to give your mouth a chance to rest. Make sure to thoroughly clean the dentures before putting them back on the next morning. Other denture cleaning tips include:

  • Avoid washing your dentures with toothpaste since it may scratch the surface causing stains
  • Use lukewarm water and soap, denture cleaning tablet, or denture cream to clean your dentures thoroughly
  • Use separate toothpaste that is specially formulated for dentures to cleanse them

Keeping your dentures clean and fresh can help prevent the build-up of odour-causing plaque and bacteria.

Regular Dental Check-Ups

If you are concerned about your breath, make a point to visit your dentist more regularly. Regular dental check-ups allow the dentist to detect any issues like dry mouth or gum disease early. This way, the dentist will be able to stop them before they can become more serious. If your dentist concludes that your mouth is clean and healthy, they may refer you to your primary caregiver.

Enjoy the Maltese sunset!
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Dr Joseph Xuereb, Dental & Implant Surgeon, is the Principal at Savina Dental Clinics, with branches in Luqa, Malta and Victoria, Gozo.

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