|By Dr. Harold Katz - Bad Breath Expert|
Halitosis, or bad breath as it is more commonly known, is a problem almost everyone has suffered from. Bad breath can range from something experienced after eating too much garlic to a symptom of a more serious, underlying medical problem. There are four key culprits behind bad breath and any one of them could explain what you are experiencing. The most obvious is food: particles become trapped around teeth or in gum pockets and start to smell bad. Often, its food thats being digested in the stomach that is the source. Dental problems and inadequate dental hygiene can also be major causes of halitosis. People are sometimes surprised to learn that simple dry mouth is considered a chief cause. Without enough saliva to keep the mouth clean, odors can develop. Other underlying medical conditions account for a small percentage of halitosis cases. As common of a condition as bad breath is, it is reassuring that halitosis treatment has received a lot of attention by the scientific community and the pharmaceutical industry.
Treating Halitosis Yourself
For many sufferers, the toothbrush and some dental floss is the only halitosis treatment they need. One of the most effective remedies for bad breath is simply to do what your dentist told you. Remember to brush your teeth after a meal or snack. Take a toothbrush to work or school if you have problems with bad breath and have found brushing helpful. Ideally, a toothbrush should be replaced every couple of months because it can harbor bacteria and reintroduce them to a clean mouth. Get in the habit of cleaning your tongue when brushing. The tongue is like Velcro and traps food in small crevices. While using your toothbrush, just very gently sweep it over the top of your tongue.
Toothpaste with an antibacterial component to it can lessen mouth odors as long as 12 hours. Its a good idea to floss after each meal too but, if you cant, make sure to do it at least once daily. Dental floss is easy to carry in a purse or pocket and use when you cant brush. Consider, also, using another type of inter-dental cleaner in addition to brushing and flossing. Irrigation devices are excellent for cleaning all the areas under gums or around teeth. Although it is a short-term fix, mouthwash is a good solution to temporarily mask odor.
There are a lot of over-the-counter products available to help control halitosis. Some, of course, are better than others because they take a different approach or were developed using new science and techniques. For example, halitosis treatment has been advanced by products like Therabreath toothpaste which specifically targets the anaerobic bacteria that cause bad breath.
Since its not always particles left behind that cause bad breath, its good to look at foods you eat. Garlic and onion, among other foods, release oil when digested that can give off bad odors. If you think your food choices are contributing to halitosis, keep a food log and chart the occurrence of bad breath against what you eat to target the problem food. Limiting your intake of coffee and alcoholic beverages can help as they directly contribute to mouth odor by drying the mouth and leaving a residue that produces odors. Its always a good idea to quit smoking for health reasons but, in the case of bad breath, tobacco products also directly contribute to it by drying out the mouth.
If you suspect dry mouth is the source of your halitosis, there are a number of ways to attack it. The easiest is to drink more water because that, alone, keeps the mouth more moist and sweeps bacteria along while not drying the mouth as soft drinks and other beverages do. Any activity that stimulates the production of saliva helps treat halitosis because saliva washes away bacteria and food particles. Chewing sugarless gum or sucking on sugarless candy will increase saliva. These arent permanent solutions but can help temporarily conceal the problem. Look for gums or other products sweetened with Xylitol because it helps prevent bacteria from reproducing and increases saliva, too.
When to See a Dentist for Halitosis Treatment
If you have exhausted all possible home halitosis treatments and still have a noticeable problem affecting your work or personal relationships, then its time to schedule a dental visit. Ideally, you will see your dentist a couple of times a year for a checkup anyway because thats one of the best ways to prevent the problems that cause bad breath from developing. The first thing the dentist will look for is evidence of cavities, gum disease and any crowns or bridges that might need replacement. In the case of a cavity, a severely-decayed tooth may produce strong odors. Bridges, crowns and other restoration procedures can develop cracks or get damaged and become crevices where bacteria lodge, reproduce and give off odors. If there are signs of gum disease, it may be necessary to see a gum specialist, or periodontist, for further halitosis treatment. With gum disease, gums pull away from the teeth and pockets might open up which become home to odor-causing bacteria. A deep cleaning by a professional may be needed to treat and remove them.
The dentist also might refer you to a medical doctor for further diagnosis if he cant find anything to explain your bad breath. A relatively small percentage of bad breath problems are caused by a medical condition of which the sufferer is unaware. For example, diabetes can produce a distinctive breath odor. With medical disorders, the halitosis treatment is simply to take care of the underlying problem.
Halitosis is a condition that affects millions and has social consequences as well as dental and medical dimensions. Sufferers cant suffer in silence because its a problem apparent to those around them. With todays science and effective available treatments, no one needs to continually suffer with bad breath.