If you’ve ever done a quick breath check before a job interview, first date, or another important event, you’re not alone. The American Dental Association points out that about half of all adults have dealt with bad breath at some point.
In some cases, bad breath clears up quickly and all you need to do is to brush your teeth or chew some sugar-free gum. In other instances, it can linger, seeming to become part of your everyday life. The second type of bad breath is often a cause of concern, because no one wants to go around with chronically unpleasant smelling breath!
Luckily, there are ways to treat bad breath. A dental professional can work with you and help you determine what’s contributing to the odor. Once you know what the underlying cause is, you can take steps to treat the bad breath.
Find the Cause of the Bad Breath
A few things can cause bad breath, some of which are temporary and some of which are longer-lasting. Often, a build-up of bacteria in the mouth is to blame. Your mouth is naturally home to hundreds of different types of bacteria. Some of the bacteria are beneficial and play a role in helping to keep your mouth (and the rest of your body) healthy.
Others aren’t beneficial and can cause bad breath, among other things. Bacteria builds up in the mouth when it’s been a while since you brushed or had a professional dental cleaning. It can also build up if there’s an infection, such as gum and bone disease, or if you have untreated cavities.
Other potential causes of bad breath include:
- Dry mouth (or lack of saliva production).
- Smoking/tobacco use.
- Certain medical conditions.
- Dietary choices.
- Misaligned teeth or bite.
Schedule a Professional Cleaning
During a professional cleaning, a hygienist or dentist will remove plaque and tartar from the teeth and beneath the gum line, helping to reduce the bacteria in your mouth. They will also usually polish the teeth and floss in between to remove any lingering debris.
A professional cleaning gives a dental professional an opportunity to examine your mouth and determine if anything else might be causing your bad breath, such as unfilled cavities, gingivitis, or the way your teeth fit together.
Try a Mouthwash
In some cases, your oral care routine might just need a bit of a boost to help it clean your mouth effectively. If you’re already brushing twice a day and flossing and still have bad breath, your dental professional might recommend trying an alcohol-free, antibacterial mouthwash. Depending on your situation, your dentist might give you a prescription for a mouthwash to fight bad breath or recommend a product that’s available over-the-counter.
Consider Changing Your Diet
You are what you eat, or at least, your breath is. Some foods are more likely to cause bad breath than others. Depending on how often you eat them, they can contribute to ongoing breath issues. A few foods and drinks that often contribute to bad breath include:
- Tuna (and other types of canned fish)
- Alcoholic drinks
Garlic and onions are particularly notorious for causing bad breath, as they contain sulfur compounds that hang around, sometimes even after you’ve brushed your teeth. If bad breath is a problem for you and you eat a lot of garlic or onions, try cutting back or removing them from your diet to see if you notice a change.
Treat Underlying Conditions
Sometimes, an untreated medical condition can be what’s causing your bad breath. In some instances, the condition is something in the mouth, such as gum and bone disease. In other cases, it can be a condition that somehow interferes with the mouth. For example, if you have a sinus infection or a respiratory infection, you might develop bad breath as a result of the additional mucus produced by the body. Bacteria in the mouth can feed on the mucus, leading to an unpleasant odor.
There are also cases when the medication you take for a certain condition plays a role in causing bad breath. For example, certain medications cause dry mouth or a reduction in the amount of saliva your body produces.
Saliva plays an important role in helping to rinse out the mouth and wash away excess bacteria. When you’re not producing as much saliva as you need, bacteria can thrive. If you suspect that your medication is causing dry mouth, talk to your doctor to see if there are alternatives to the medicine or ways for you to hydrate the mouth if you can’t try a different medication.
Smoking contributes to bad breath in two ways. First, the smoke you inhale when you take a puff on a cigarette or cigar has a distinct scent. Second, smoking increases your risk for gum and bone disease and can increase the bacteria in your mouth.
Quitting smoking can be a challenge, but help is available. A medical or dental professional can introduce you to smoking cessation options and direct you to support groups for people in the process of quitting tobacco. Talk to your dentist at your next appointment if you’re ready to give quitting a try.
Start or Maintain an Oral Care Routine
Once you’ve figured out what’s behind your bad breath and the best way to treat it, the next thing to do is get in the habit of taking excellent care of your teeth and gums at home. Brush twice a day and floss at least once a day.
It’s also a good idea to replace your toothbrush every three months, or earlier if you notice that it’s worn out. If you have dentures or wear a retainer, remember to take them out for cleaning regularly, usually at least once a day.
Bad breath can be embarrassing, but it doesn’t have to ruin your day. The dental professionals at Klement Family Dental in St. Petersburg, FL. are happy to help you get to the bottom of your bad breath and to recommend treatment options that work for you. To make an appointment at a time that’s convenient for you, contact us today.