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Surbiton Dental 395 Ewell Road Surbiton Surrey KT6 7DG

Fresh Breath

Fresh Breath

16 December 2020

Bad breath, also known as oral malodor or halitosis, is a very common problem. While it is unclear how many people actually experience regular bad breath, some research cites that approximately 50% of the adult population has had occasional or persistent bad breath.

Morning Breath

Most people find that their breath is not fresh when they first wake up, and unfortunately this is normal. Your natural saliva flushes bacteria and leftover food particles from your mouth and saliva production in your mouth decreases while you sleep. Without saliva to flush them away, the bacteria multiplies breaking down food debris, creating an unpleasant odour. Due to the mouth being a bit drier than normal overnight, a little morning breath is hard to avoid.

Food Smells on Your Breath

Some foods are notorious for causing bad breath, but maybe not in the way you expect. You may think that particularly spicy or flavorful foods only cause residual odour because food particles remain in your mouth. While this is a common cause of bad breath, other factors may be at work. Once consumed, components from certain foods like onions, garlic, some vegetables, and spices, enter into your bloodstream and are carried to the lungs affecting your breath as you breathe in and out. For example, as you eat garlic is also absorbed into your bloodstream, enabling a secondary wave of odour to make its way into your lungs, where it can freely escape through the mouth. Once absorbed, garlic then emits a bitter scent from your pores.

Smoker’s Breath

Whether through smoking, chewing, dipping, or a pipe—all tobacco products cause an unpleasant odour in the mouth. Smoking also affects the moisture levels in the mouth and leaves a stale film on teeth and gums. Smokers are also at a higher risk for gum disease.

Is it Chronic Bad Breath?

Chronic bad breath is a condition where a foul odour emanates from the mouth regardless of brushing, flossing, or rinsing. Common “morning breath” most people wake up with is not chronic bad breath and neither is the bad breath that you might experience after eating spicy food.

General bad breath is very common with approximately half of the adult population reporting occasional or persistent bad breath. About half of these people described their bad breath as a severe or chronic problem. If you are concerned about chronic bad breath, your first step should be a re-evaluation of your basic brushing and rinsing technique since most cases of bad breath originate from hygiene conditions in the mouth. In addition to cleaning your teeth, you should give extra attention to cleaning your tongue—this is where a large amount of the bacteria lives that could be causing your bad breath. Scrape the tongue, then brush, floss, and rinse. Remember that brushing alone cleans only 25% of your mouth. Rinsing with mouthwash will allow you to clean virtually your entire mouth.

If you’re concerned about chronic bad breath, you should visit your dentist or hygienist. True halitosis can causes considerable social anxiety and often goes untreated because people are often embarrassed to mention it to their dentist. Don’t be afraid or embarrassed to talk to a licensed dental professional about your concerns regarding halitosis. He or she will most likely be able to diagnose and treat the cause of your breath issues.

Is Bad Breath Normal?

Bad breath is a very common condition. When asked, nearly 50% of adults claimed to have occasional or persistent bad breath, with about half of those people regarding their issue as chronic or severe. After overcoming any anxiety or embarrassment about the problem however, bad breath is quite treatable.

Causes Of Bad Breath

Bad breath, also known as oral malodor or halitosis, is a very common and treatable condition for many adults. It can be caused by something you eat, or more seriously, can signify a deeper oral health issue or serious medical issue. Here we’ll describe possible causes of common bad breath as well as chronic bad breath or halitosis.

General Oral Health

Most bad breath is caused by poor oral hygiene. If you don’t clean your teeth and your whole mouth regularly, food particles can remain in your mouth and a sticky build up of bacteria (also known as plaque) can form on your teeth. The uneven surface of your tongue as well as your tonsils can trap food particles and bacteria in the mouth which produce bad breath odour. Poor oral hygiene also causes other oral health conditions such as cavities and gum disease which are also associated with bad breath. Keeping a consistent and thorough oral care routine is the best defence against bad breath.

Eating Flavourful Food & Drink

After eating certain foods—like onions, garlic, certain vegetables and spices—odour-causing food particles enter the bloodstream and are carried to the lungs, where they affect the odour of your breath each time you exhale.

Coffee

If you’re a big fan of a strong cup of coffee in the morning to start your day, you may have noticed that it can leave you feeling like you have bad breath. Coffee can be a cause of bad breath due its intense flavour as well as the effect it has on saliva production. After drinking coffee, the caffeine leads to a decline in saliva production. Less saliva means an increase in odour-causing bacteria.

Alcohol

Alcohol consumption is another culprit of bad breath, so the more often you drink – the more likely you are to experience it. Drinking alcohol, particularly in excess, causes a decrease in saliva production, which is the best environment for odour-causing bacteria to flourish.

High-sugar Diets

In addition to adventurous or spicy foods, diets that are high in sugar and protein can also result in bad breath. A diet high in sugar can lead to bad breath and could be the culprit for halitosis due to how sugars interact with the existing bacteria in your mouth. The bacteria that naturally exist in your mouth feed on sugars turning sweet treats in to sour smells.

High-Protein or Low-Carb Diets

Carbohydrates serve crucial functions in our bodies, and if your diet is low enough in carbs, it can lead to bad breath. When the body doesn’t get enough carbs due to an extreme diet, this can cause changes to your body’s metabolism which can lead to bad breath.

High-protein foods are sometimes difficult for your body to digest and tend to release sulfurous gases when they don’t metabolize. Avoid this by eating a more balanced and nutritious diet including more vegetables and herbs.

Smoking

Tobacco products—whether it’s cigarettes, chew, or pipe—all cause bad breath and lead to much more serious oral health issues. Apart from leaving your mouth smelling like an ashtray, they damage the gum tissue and cause gum disease.

Digestive Issues

Poor digestion, constipation, or bowel disorders can all cause unfortunate odour on the breath. If you frequently experience acid reflux, the odours from recently consumed foods may easily make their way back up the esophagus and out the mouth, causing bad breath.

Dry Mouth

Saliva helps keep your mouth clean by removing food particles that lead to bad breath. When the production of saliva slackens or stops, a condition known as xerostomia, bad breath is likely to follow. This happens naturally while you sleep, which is why most people find their breath to be a bit stinky upon waking up. But if the problem persists throughout the day, treatment may be worth considering.

Prescription Medication

Hundreds of prescription medications come with the side effect of dry mouth. When your mouth is dry, when saliva production decreases, the environment for odour-causing bacteria thrives. Any extended period of time with cotton mouth can cause discomfort and lead to bad breath. Additionally, some medications, when broken down in the body, release chemicals that can be carried through your blood stream to your breath.

Other Causes

Although most bad breath is caused by odour-causing bacteria, there are a number of other health conditions that may be contributing to the problem. Bad breath can be a warning sign that other diseases or illnesses are present. Postnasal drip, respiratory and tonsil infections, sinus problems, diabetes, liver and kidney issues, as well as certain blood disorders can all cause bad breath. In some rarer cases, bad breath could be a sign of cancer or other serious conditions like metabolic disorders.

Signs of Bad Breath

Most People Who Have Bad Breath Don’t Know It

Believe it or not, people with bad breath, especially chronic bad breath, may not even be aware of the problem. That’s because our oral cavities are connected to our noses through an opening in the back of our mouths. Some research suggests that our brain automatically filters out triggers or receptors that it deems to be non-threatening through a process called sensory adaptation. According to this theory, our nose may filter out any bad smells coming from the mouth because we have grown accustomed to our own odours.

Why Can’t We Smell Our Own Breath?

If someone is unaware of their bad breath, there are a couple possible reasons why. One is social stigma. Many people may have noticed that their oral health isn’t optimal or that conditions in their mouths feel different or abnormal. However, many people may be too embarrassed to ask a loved one if the problem needs to be addressed. Another possible reason is our natural inability to actually smell our own breath, caused by an opening in the back of the mouth behind the soft palate, called the pharynx, which connects it to the nose.

So How Can I Tell?

It is very likely that you’ll experience mild bad breath on occasion, given how common the causes are. If you have concerns about chronic bad breath or halitosis, try asking a loved one or schedule an appointment with your dentist. Oral healthcare professionals cannot only diagnose bad breath, but are trained to help accurately identify the underlying cause.

Are You a Smoker?

An array of health issues, one of them being bad breath. If you smoke or chew tobacco, you could be suffering from foul breath odors.

Coffee or Alcohol Drinker?

Coffee and alcohol both make your mouth prone to bad breath. If you habitually consume either of them, there’s a good chance your breath isn’t as fresh as you’d like.

Oral Health Issues

Many common oral problems are likely to contribute to bad breath. So if you have an existing condition, like gum disease, open wounds, sinus/oral infection, or respiratory problems, have a loved one or dentist see if it’s also causing bad breath odours.

Preventing and Treating Bad Breath

Role of Oral Hygiene in Preventing & Treating Bad Breath

Most bad breath is caused by poor basic oral hygiene. A twice-daily routine of brushing, flossing, and rinsing with mouthwash prevents odour-causing bacteria from taking hold in the mouth. When food particles aren’t properly removed, bacteria forms on the teeth, gums, and tongue. This can cause bad breath, and it will worsen as the bacteria continue to grow. So staying diligent with a good oral regimen is the best remedy for conventional bad breath.

Don’t be shy to ask your dentist about treating bad breath. The problem can be dealt with very easily, or you may find out that deeper problems are present. However, it may be hard to know until you check with an oral healthcare professional.

Establish a Daily Oral Healthcare Routine

The best treatment for bad breath addresses the root of the problem. Most bad breath is caused by poor oral hygiene—not being diligent enough in the removal of bacteria in the mouth. Bacteria left alone builds on itself and intensifies embarrassing odours. So a twice-daily routine of brushing, flossing, and rinsing with an antiseptic mouthwash like LISTERINE® will prevent most forms of bad breath. Make sure to brush your tongue, too.

Regular check ups with your dentist are another easy way to help prevent bad breath. At least twice a year, receiving a professional cleaning and examination can offset the build up of odour-causing bacteria. Follow the dentist’s instructions carefully; take note of the foods and drink you consume and use tools like a tongue scraper for extra effectiveness in removing residual food debris and bacteria.

Being prepared and aware of the causes of bad breath, however, is the best way to avoid any embarrassing odours. Something as simple as brushing, flossing, and rinsing with mouthwash twice daily can prevent bacteria from getting the chance to coalesce and cause bad breath, gingivitis, or more serious oral health issues.

Improve Your Lifestyle

There are many simple ways to prevent bad breath, and unsurprisingly, they all focus on paying attention to what goes into your mouth. Avoiding certain things and making a point to include others can make all the difference.

Water

Drinking lots of water can improve your chances at avoiding bad breath. Foul odours are caused by a build up of bacteria in the mouth, bacteria that is typically dealt with by your own mouth and its saliva glands. If you don’t hydrate enough, your saliva production will decline, leading to a dry environment conducive to bacteria growth. Drinking plenty of water can ensure that your mouth stays moist and clean.

Foods

Components from food that you eat are absorbed into the bloodstream and carried to the lungs, where their residual odour then comes out of your mouth with every breath you take. So the foods you eat will affect how your breath smells. Eat plenty of vegetables and herbs, while avoiding foods that contribute to bad breath like those high in sugar or with particularly potent flavour.

Chewing Gum

Chewing sugar-free gum can also help treat bad breath, as it activates and helps saliva production in the mouth. With an increase in saliva, odour-causing bacteria has a harder time clumping together, and hence won’t cause bad breath as much. Be careful not to chew gum or mints with sugar, as sugar is a main culprit of bacteria growth in the mouth.

Sugar

Also, reducing your intake of high sugar drinks like soda or certain juices can also help bad breath, as sugar only exacerbates the conditions where odour-causing bacteria grows.

Alcohol & Coffee

Alcohol and coffee are especially problematic when it comes to bad breath, so some basic treatment can go a long way in stemming any odours that occur after indulging in your favourite drink. After a cup of coffee or glass of wine, try rinsing with an antiseptic rinse like LISTERINE® mouthwash or using a portable breath freshener like LISTERINE® POCKETPAKS® strips. Rinsing twice daily with LISTERINE® mouthwash as part of your brushing and flossing routine is very effective at removing excess food debris, as well as keeping bacteria from forming on the gums.

Stop Smoking and Chewing Tobacco

Getting rid of bad breath for those who smoke or chew tobacco will most likely entail quitting their bad habits. Aside from more serious oral health issues like gum disease, bone loss, and oral cancer, smoking or chewing tobacco causes bad breath. Removing it from your life will almost certainly improve the freshness of your breath.

Oral Infections

Treating any oral infection you have will almost always improve the freshness of your breath, as infections create the perfect environment for odour-causing bacteria to thrive. See a dentist and follow their instructions carefully.

Colds, Head Colds, or Sinus Infections

Sinus infections can also lead to bad breath, as the sinuses and mouth are closely related. If you are experiencing post-nasal drip due to a cold or sinus issue, bacteria can build up and cause foul odours to enter the mouth. If you believe your bad breath is the result of a sinus infection, enlarged tonsils, or post-nasal drip, it could be time to call medical professional.

Get Checked for Underlying Health Problems

If you believe your bad breath is not temporary but more of a deeper, chronic condition, it may be from an underlying health problem. The following illnesses may be the source of embarrassing breath:

  • Acid reflux
  • Diabetes
  • Kidney disease
  • Periodontitis
  • Oral and Sinus infections
  • Digestive issues
  • Various kinds of cancer

Talk to Your Dental Healthcare Professional

If you have taken steps to improve your oral care routine and you are still experiencing persistent bad breath or halitosis, you should schedule an appointment and discuss the issue with your dentist or hygienist. To help diagnose the underlying cause of your bad breath, your dentist may ask you about when you first began to experience the chronic bad breath and how often you brush your teeth, floss, and use mouthwash. Your dentist may also ask about medications or supplements that you may take, whether or not you snore, and also conduct an exam to check for other oral health conditions.

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