Halitosis: Is Chronic Bad Breath A Cause for Concern?
We all know the feeling — indulging in a garlicky meal or waking up with a wicked case of morning breath can result in an inconvenient mouth odor that requires some serious brushing or mint gum. But what if your oral hygiene routine and breath mints just don’t seem to be cutting it long term? Bad breath that persists could be a sign of a chronic condition.
If you experience bad breath that always seems to come back, you may find social situations intimidating or become frustrated by your oral hygiene routine’s inability to keep your breath fresh. If you relate to this phenomenon, you likely have a condition known as halitosis. Read on to learn more about what halitosis is, its underlying causes and how to prevent bad breath in the future.
What is Halitosis?
Halitosis is chronic bad breath. But how do you know the difference between temporary bad breath and halitosis? Everyone experiences bad breath 一 whether it’s from a case of morning breath, eating spicy meals, or even from their morning coffee. What sets halitosis apart from this type of bad breath is the underlying cause. Even though this condition is usually chronic, there are easy, efficient steps you can take to avoid bad breath of any cause.
Common Causes of Halitosis
Figuring out how to avoid symptoms of halitosis requires pinpointing your specific cause. Many of the common causes of halitosis include:
Bacteria buildup from dental issues: When areas in your mouth provide deeper places for bacteria to thrive, such as pockets that form with cavities, gum recession or periodontal disease, it can be more difficult to target the problem area. In addition, oral wounds from surgery or other events can result in more bacteria flourishing. Any condition in the mouth that involves bacteria can lead to symptoms of halitosis.
Poor oral hygiene: If you don’t clean out bacteria regularly, bad breath soon follows. While brushing your teeth twice a day is important for maintaining oral hygiene, brushing alone only cleans about 25% of your mouth. Keeping up with other oral health best practices, like flossing and using mouthwash, is essential to maintaining a healthy mouth.
Dry mouth: If you deal with dry mouth on a regular basis, it’s not uncommon to also experience halitosis. Saliva production helps remove built-up food particles that can lead to bad breath. So with smaller amounts of saliva present, there is less natural flushing out of the mouth.
Medications: Many medications can indirectly lead to halitosis because they commonly cause dry mouth as a side effect. In addition, when some medications break down in your system, they can release certain chemicals that exit through the mouth and cause an odor.
Diet: It’s common sense that certain foods like garlic and spicy dishes can lead to bouts of bad breath, but there are other links between diet and halitosis. Apart from food particles sticking around in your mouth, the body’s digestion of certain foods can directly lead to bad breath. Other common food and drinks that cause bad breath include alcohol, coffee, onions and large quantities of sugar.
Gastrointestinal issues: Halitosis can also be caused by issues in the stomach. Acid reflux and indigestion affect the esophagus, which in turn can affect your breath. The scent of foods you recently consumed carries through to the esophagus and up through the mouth.
Other causes of bad breath include sinus issues, diabetes, liver disease and lung problems. The bottom line is that halitosis is much more common than you may think! Numerous factors contribute to bad breath. Once you pinpoint what may be causing it, finding successful treatment remedies becomes much easier.
Can a Stomach Ulcer Cause Bad Breath?
Gastrointestinal issues that affect the esophagus have a direct impact on your mouth. But what about stomach ulcers? Even this condition, which may seem like a more isolated problem, can impact the odor of your breath.
Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) is a bacterium that infects the stomach and can lead to issues like stomach cancer and ulcer diseases. H. pylori is not confirmed to carry an unpleasant odor by itself, but multiple studies have found a clear correlation between treatment of stomach ulcers and the resolution of halitosis.
One group of researchers found that those with H. pylori also carried Prevotella intermedia, which is a common periodontal bacteria. Another study suggested that H. pylori can also present itself in the mouth. In this particular study, participants with both H. pylori infections and confirmed halitosis were treated for stomach infections. Once the H. pylori bacteria were eradicated, 16 of the 18 participants also found that their halitosis had completely subsided.
It is not clear yet whether the bacteria that causes stomach ulcers leads to bad breath because of its presence in the stomach or the mouth. However, there is certainly a link between those who suffer from stomach ulcers and halitosis.
Bad Breath Remedies
With all the potential halitosis causes, how do you choose the right treatment? Luckily, the various causes of bad breath have several remedies. Even if your halitosis is caused by a more complicated underlying condition, these bad breath treatments can help you avoid bad breath long term:
1. Avoid Common Dietary Causes
Some causes of halitosis are unavoidable, whether hereditary or caused by a necessary medication. However, choices regarding diet can have a great impact on your breath’s odor. One of the easiest ways to prevent bad breath is to limit alcohol, coffee and strong-smelling foods. Of course, you can enjoy these options in moderation. Just remember to treat your mouth accordingly afterward.
More importantly, cutting out tobacco products and overly sugary food and drinks can make a big difference. These options can cause bad breath short term, but they can also lead to cavities and other dental problems that result in more persistent halitosis.
2. Expand Your Oral Hygiene Routine
One of the most successful ways to prevent halitosis at home is to practice thorough oral hygiene. While brushing your teeth is essential, focusing on the tongue is a great way to target your breath. Your tongue is where most bacteria live, so cleaning it with a tongue scraper or using mouthwash will ensure you clean your entire mouth and get into pockets where bacteria often hide.
3. Consult With Your Doctor About Outside Factors
Many factors that contribute to bad breath are unrelated to the mouth and require more advanced treatment. Even conditions that affect the mouth directly, like dry mouth, cannot be treated solely by home remedies. Make sure to consult with your doctor about any other health conditions or medications you may have that could be contributing to persistent bad breath.
Treat Chronic Bad Breath With Dental Choice
In addition to practicing good oral hygiene at home and consulting with your doctor, regularly visiting your dentist is a surefire way to catch any oral issues before they become serious. At Dental Choice, we specialize in regular cleanings and preventative examinations for all kinds of dental problems. If you suspect you may have halitosis, contact us about our services or speak with a professional to find the best remedies for you.