It may be little surprise that healthcare professionals routinely recommend that individuals who smoke make an attempt to quit, but some people may be interested to know much research has gone into the association between bad breath and tobacco use. Multiple studies have made a connection between the two, and while the numbers vary, overall it's clear that smoking makes halitosis go from bad to worse.
Recently, an article published in the Journal of the American Dental Association (ADA) unceremoniously recommended that smokers "give tobacco the boot." That, in fact, is the title of the report, and considering the study's content, it's little wonder the authors gave it such an unambiguous name.
The team states that tobacco use dramatically increases the risk of periodontal disease, which is like gingivitis on steroids. Periodontitis occurs when chronic gum infections and inflammation gradually creep under the gumline, affecting the bone material that holds teeth in place.
Over time, the deterioration of gums and tooth sockets caused by periodontal disease can lead to dental rot and looseness, often resulting in lost teeth. The ADA officials note that one of the hallmarks of tobacco-related periodontal disease is constant halitosis, as well as a long list of other unappetizing oral health consequences.
Researchers say that quitting sooner is always better, even considering the near-constant irritation caused by early withdrawal from nicotine. Those who continue to smoke put themselves at risk of cavities, oral odor, swollen gums, missing teeth and oral and throat cancers, the study's authors add.
Even setting aside the dramatic risk of cancer, smoking appears to do a number on the breath of almost every tobacco-using group of dental study participants.
A report published in the Journal of Contemporary Dental Practice determined that a significant portion of the study's smokers had bad breath. In fact, of the 13 percent of men who smoked, 7 percent had been clinically diagnosed with halitosis by a dentist.
Similarly, of more than 1,500 participants in a study published in the Journal of Dentistry, those who smoked were more than two and a half times more likely to have bad breath, compared to those who abstained from cigarettes. The only factor that had a bigger impact on oral odor was not brushing one's teeth.
Besides immediately giving the tongue and palate the odor of an ashtray, tobacco smoke restricts blood vessels in the mouth, allowing oral bacteria to more easily infect the gums. Excess microbial multiplication means that dental health declines while halitosis intensifies.
Besides quitting, smokers may wish to use a speciality breath freshening rinse or tablet to neutralize the compounds that cause bad breath.