Bad breath undermines social relationships. It wreaks havoc on romance since few people want to kiss someone 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 the worst sufferers often don't realize they have it. Could this be you?
Bad breath has many causes, among them strong smelling foods like onions and garlic, smoking, digestive problems, and metabolic diseases like diabetes. One of the primary 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, gums, and between the teeth, providing a medium for bacteria to grow. The chief culprit is a bacterium called Streptococcus mutans (S. mutans), which 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 dental enamel. Over time, these acids succeed in breaking down the dental enamel, a process known as tooth decay, which is associated with a malodorous smell.
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 and becomes increasingly difficult to remove. Plaque irritates the gums, eventually leading to gum disease, another leading cause of bad breath. Gum disease leads to other serious consequences such as gum bleeding, chronic oral infections, and if left untreated, eventual tooth loss.
Most people do not think of tooth decay as a disease, however, pediatricians say it is the most common childhood disease. Nearly one-fifth of all children between the ages of 2 and 4 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 are suffering from chronic bad breath and cannot identify the underlying cause, one likely culprit is undiagnosed tooth decay. Most people don't recognize the symptoms of tooth decay unless it is so severe the tooth's nerve is affected and results in a toothache, or a dentist detects it during an exam.
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 enamel erosion. More advanced stages of tooth decay require dentists to repair cavities in the teeth. The dentist removes the decayed area of the tooth and then restores the affected tooth to its original shape and function through the use of a filling material. If the decayed tooth is so damaged it cannot be saved, the dentist may need to replace it with a manmade tooth called a crown.
In cases in which the decay is so severe it has penetrated the tooth enamel and entered the pulp of the tooth, a dentist may need to perform a procedure called a root canal. The damaged pulp of the tooth is removed, sometimes also with the nerve. 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. Most people are consistent about brushing their teeth in the morning and before they sleep. Many neglect 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 dental enamel in shape and your breath smelling fresh. Electric toothbrushes and waterpiks can make brushing and flossing processes more efficient.
Even someone who is scrupulous about brushing and flossing may not be able to remove every trace of plaque. That is 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 can also help reduce the incidence of tooth decay and accompanying bad breath. Bacteria feed especially on foods high in processed sugars and carbohydrates. Avoiding these foods will lower the chances of developing tooth decay. Smoking is also a huge risk factor for developing tooth decay and quitting will help reduce the likelihood of 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 sugary breath mints. Moreover, TheraBreath® Oral Rinses arespecially formulated to prevent the growth of anaerobic bacteria like S.mutans, and are also an effective deterrent to tooth decay and the bad breath it causes.
These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure, or prevent any disease. The information contained herein is for educational purposes only. Before initiating any new oral treatment, please consult your oral care professional.