Bad breath undermines social relationships. It plays havoc with romance since few people want to kiss someone else whose mouth is not sweet smelling and appealing. It can severely limit opportunities for professional advancement. One of the most insidious things about bad breath is that often the worst sufferers don't recognize they have it. Could this be you?
Bad breath has many causes, among them are: strong smelling foods like onions and garlic, smoking, digestive upsets and metabolic diseases like diabetes. One of the chief causes of bad breath, is untreated tooth decay. Even a small amount of dental decay can produce a foul odor.
Bad Breath and Tooth Decay
Tooth decay, or dental caries, refers to the bacterial destruction of tooth enamel. This happens when the mouth is not properly cleansed after eating and residues of food particles build up on the tongue and gums as well as between the teeth, providing a medium for bacteria to grow. The chief culprit here is a bacterium called Streptococcus mutans. S. mutans loves sugar. The first stage of the digestive process takes place in the mouth when saliva breaks down carbohydrates into sugars. As S.mutans digests these sugars, it produces acids that attack the dental enamel. Over time, these acids actually succeed in breaking down the dental enamel, a process known as tooth decay. Decay smells bad.
S. mutans and food residues adhere to the teeth in a thin substance called plaque. Over time, if plaque is not removed, it calcifies into a hard residue that becomes increasingly difficult to remove. Plaque irritates the gums that hold teeth in place, eventually leading to gum disease, another leading cause of bad breath. Gum disease leads to other serious consequences as well such as gum bleeding, chronic oral infections and, if untreated, eventual tooth loss.
Most people don't think of tooth decay as a disease. But pediatricians say it is the most common of all childhood diseases. Nearly one-fifth of all children between the ages of two and four have at least one cavity. By age 17, nearly 80 percent of all people have at least one cavity and, by the age of 45, nearly two-thirds of all adults will have lost at least one tooth to decay.
Bad Breath and Tooth Decay Treatment
If you're suffering from chronic bad breath and you can't identify the underlying cause, one likely culprit is undiagnosed tooth decay. People don't generally recognize the symptoms of tooth decay until it's identified by a dentist or becomes so severe the tooth's nerve is affected and they experience a tooth ache.
In its very earliest stages, tooth decay may be treated through the use of a fluoride product. While this doesn't actually reverse tooth decay, it can protect teeth against further erosion of the enamel.
More advanced stages of tooth decay will require your dentist to repair the cavity that has formed in your tooth. Your dentist will remove the decayed area of the tooth and then restore the affected tooth to its original shape and function through the use of a filling material. If the decayed tooth is so damaged that it cannot be saved, your dentist may need to replace it with a man-made tooth called a crown.
In instances where the decay is so severe that it has penetrated the tooth enamel and entered the pulp of the tooth, your dentist may need to perform a procedure called a root canal that removes the damaged pulp of the tooth and often the tooth's nerve as well. In extremely severe cases of tooth decay, the entire tooth may need to be extracted.
Preventing Bad Breath due to Tooth Decay
Bad breath due to tooth decay can be prevented with proper oral hygiene. Dentists recommend brushing your teeth after every meal and flossing twice a day. While most people are consistent about brushing their teeth in the morning and before they sleep, they are not in the habit of brushing their teeth after every meal which dentists say is the most effective deterrent for tooth decay. Brushing your teeth after every meal is the most useful method for keeping your dental enamel in shape and your breath smelling fresh.
Electric toothbrushes and waterpiks can make the brushing and flossing processes more efficient. Use of a product like TheraBreath Oral Rinse, which is specially formulated to prevent the growth of anaerobic bacteria like S.mutans, is also an effective deterrent to tooth decay and the bad breath that it causes.
Even someone who is scrupulous about brushing and flossing may not be able to remove every trace of plaque. That's why the American Dental Association recommends professional teeth cleaning twice yearly. During this process, a dental hygienist will scrape off whatever plaque residues have eluded brushing and flossing.
Lifestyle changes will also reduce the incidence of tooth decay and the bad breath that accompanies it. Bacteria feed especially on foods that are high in processed sugars and carbohydrates. Avoiding these foods will lower your chances of developing tooth decay. Smoking is also a huge risk factor for developing tooth decay.
Undiagnosed tooth decay is one of the leading causes of bad breath. Regular brushing and flossing is a better means of ensuring your breath stays fresh and sweet than any amount of sugary breath mints.