What is halitosis?
Halitosis is chronic bad breath that can’t be solved by brushing, mints, or mouthwash. Unlike bad breath that is caused by eating pungent food, or “morning breath,” halitosis lingers and may indicate something more serious. If your breath smells foul shortly after brushing, there may be an underlying issue. Dental issues, like cavities or gum disease, give bacteria more places to hide in your mouth, making it more difficult to clean the mouth of excessive bacteria by brushing, rinsing, or flossing. These bacteria contribute to halitosis. Bad breath may also indicate a sinus, nose, or throat infection that has led to post-nasal drip and contributed to bad breath. Bacteria feed on the thick mucus your body produces while fighting off a sinus infection, causing a foul odor to emerge from the back of the throat. Dry mouth will also lead to bad breath. Your saliva serves an important purpose in your mouth, as it rinses out your mouth and teeth and removes debris, helps break down food that you eat, and protects the teeth and gums against cavities and infections. Some people, however, don’t make enough saliva, and this can lead to halitosis. Dry mouth may be caused by certain prescription or over-the-counter medications, certain medical conditions, tobacco or alcohol use, or excessive caffeine consumption. Smoking and other tobacco products have a number of significantly negative effects on the body and on the breath. Not only do tobacco products cause the breath to smell like tobacco or cigarette smoke, they also lead to a dry mouth. Smoking and tobacco use also contributes to gum disease, which also leads to halitosis. While halitosis is usually linked directly to the mouth, it may also indicate that there is a larger medical concern present, like GERD, diabetes, or liver or kidney disease.
If you notice your breath has changed and has become unpleasant, try to revamp your daily oral hygiene routine. Brush at least twice daily, using a soft-bristled brush and fluoride toothpaste, and be sure to clean between your teeth, too, with floss or a water pick. You may also want to use a tongue scraper, especially if you are a smoker, to remove odor-causing bacteria buildup from the surface of the tongue. Some habitual changes may also help you address bad breath. If you smoke or use tobacco, consider quitting. Drink plenty of water throughout the day, and, if your mouth is dry, try chewing sugarless gum to stimulate saliva production. If you drink excessive amounts of caffeine, reducing this can also help with dry mouth and resulting halitosis. If your halitosis persists after making these changes, make an appointment with your dentist. Your dentist will professionally clean your teeth and mouth and examine your mouth for signs of gum disease or cavities. Your dentist can help diagnose and treat, or rule out oral, health issues and provide a referral to a medical provider if underlying issues are suspected. Your dentist can also recommend specific dental products tailored to your oral hygiene needs. Your dentist is the first line of defense against halitosis and your first line of defense for overall health.
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