Just because you're older, doesn't mean you have to have bad breath
SUMMARY: Halitosis can affect anyone.
Posted: September 21, 2012
Halitosis can affect anyone. No matter how stringent a person is about their oral health, chances are he or she will be in need of alcohol-free mouthwash at some point to get rid of bad breath. However, certain populations have a higher risk of persistent oral odor than others. For example, elderly individuals are more likely to experience many of the dental health problems that cause halitosis, which is why this age group, in particular, could benefit from oral care probiotics.
However, just because you're over a certain age doesn't mean you have to resign yourself to bad breath. There are many ways that elderly people can maintain their dental health and keep halitosis at bay.
What to expect when you're aging
Elderly individuals have been through a lot, and so have their teeth. Over the years the wear and tear of daily life has likely taken its toll on older people's oral health. This can seriously affect seniors' quality of life.
"Oral health problems can hinder a person’s ability to be free of pain and discomfort, to maintain a satisfying and nutritious diet, and to enjoy interpersonal relationships and a positive self-image. Overall, oral health problems are more frequently found in an older adult population for whom other health problems are often a priority," states a 2001 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
According to WebMD, elderly people are more likely to have darkened teeth due to changes in dentin - the bone-like tissue that underlies tooth enamel - as well as a lifetime of eating and drinking. They also have a greater risk of experiencing an uneven jawbone caused by tooth loss.
While these problems may require the help of a dentist, they will probably not cause bad breath. However, some of the other common dental health concerns that affect the elderly can certainly lead to halitosis. For example, older people tend to produce less saliva, which causes dry mouth. According to Live Science, a dry mouth may be unable to properly wash away excess bacteria. These microorganisms are a major source of bad breath, and if they are allowed to build up you're bound to end up with a severe case of halitosis.
Furthermore, dry mouth can cause difficulty swallowing, make food go down the wrong way and into the lungs, potentially leading to pneumonia.
Other common oral health problems that affect the elderly are gum disease and tooth decay. Both of these issues are caused when plaque and bacteria are left to build up in the mouth and begin to eat away at tooth enamel and the soft tissue of the gums. Whenever you eat, the bacteria in your mouth snacks on the carbohydrates in your food and releases acids that can cause decay. Not surprisingly, when something decays it causes a nasty smell. This is how tooth decay and gum disease can lead to bad breath.
Ways to fight back
So what can you do to combat halitosis in your golden years? Many things. First, if you've been using an alcohol-based mouthwash, then get rid of it. Alcohol dries out the mouth and may contribute to your halitosis, rather than improving it. Instead, choose alcohol-free mouthwashes and other specialty breath fresheners that are designed to eliminate bad breath without the use of harsh chemicals.
Also, it's important to brush your teeth at least twice a day and floss once daily. On top of that, you should consider making regular visits to your dentist, even more than the recommended twice a year, so that he can find any dental problems and fix them before they become a major issue.