Caught your eye, did I? Who does not want to be kissable!? We spend billions of dollars here in the USA on bad breath products; mints, gum, sprays and mouthwash, all in an attempt to have fresh sweet breath. Unfortunately, it really does not work. We all know people with baaaaad breath.
One day while wandering through the dental supply aisle (something
I do regularly), I watched this little old lady grab a gallon jug of drugstore mouthwash and trudge away. It broke my heart because she knew she had bad breath, and I knew that drugstore brand of industrial strength mouthwash was not going to help her at all. Let’s shed some light on why we have bad breath, how to check it to see if you do, and what can be done to “fix it”. Finally some answers for what can be a very embarrassing problem.
At some point in the day, we all may have varying stages of bad breath depending on time of day, food intake, mouth breathing, allergies, and public speaking. Alcohol, onions, garlic, and other spices certainly contribute to an offensive odor. Luckily, with time those odors, shall we say, move on. It’s the person with daily bad breath who is the focus of today’s blog post.
|Click to enlarge picture!
Found on Dentaltown
In dentistry, we call bad breath “halitosis”. About 90% of the time it is caused by bacteria in the mouth mixing with tissue cells, damaged blood cells, and food debris. Scientists have great names for these odor-causing chemical compounds- cadaverine, putrescine and skatole. Can’t you just smell that?! What a “scents” of humor they have! 😀 The smell is due to the bad breath bacteria rotting on your teeth, tongue, and tonsillar region and breaking down to very toxic chemicals. We call these toxic chemicals ‘volatile sulfur compounds’ or VSC’s for short. The bacteria break down the food you just ate, dead cells, or even your living cells. The VSC’s contribute to tissue destruction and can travel deep into your oral tissues- under your gums. They slow down wound healing, and can even affect your breathing and nervous systems! In addition to being a social problem, halitosis can also be a very real health problem.
Decreased saliva flow adds to this unlovely bouquet of malodor. Remember how saliva is liquid gold for your mouth?
The other 10% of the time halitosis originates from somewhere else in the body, and merits a trip to the doctor. So if there’s a bad breath problem, certainly start looking in the mouth first, but keep looking until you find the source. Have a thorough check-up and be honest with your provider. Ask questions, have x-rays and look for the trouble spots.
A tool you can use at home to check your breath is a Breath Checker by FitScan. It measures the level of VSC’s in your breath.
Fix bad breath, even in children. Let’s get kissable again. Since halitosis is usually the result of bacterial break down and low saliva flow here’s where to start:
1. Decayed and rotting teeth– yes they stink. Don’t be proud of your broken teeth, fix them even if they don’t hurt! Trust me, they are indeed hurting you.
2. Abscessed teeth – (meaning that the bad bacteria has traveled all the way to the core of the tooth and killed the nerve inside, which has then blown up) besides infecting your mouth with bacteria, they also travel and infect other body parts.
3. Gum disease or periodontal disease– No surprise here, but I can smell “perio” breath from two rows over. It has its own distinct odor. It really is time to clean in between your teeth and get that rotting food out. Soft picks, TePe brushes or Piksters help in that department. Get professional gum therapy from your favorite dental hygienist! What your large intestines do to your food while it’s digesting is the same thing that happens to food under your gums- same smell, thought you’d like to know. 🙂
4. Clean your tongue, especially the back third. I scrape my tongue twice daily until no plaque and gunk come off. Scrape and rake, squeezing the plaque out of the follicles. I offer ever patient a professional tongue de-plaquing with every appointment. Don’t scrape if it hurts. And yes, it will make you gag until you get used to it. See my Tongue Talking post for information on tongue scrapers.
5. Along with tongue cleaning I also look at the tonsils for tonsil stones. These are white, cottage cheese-like things tucked into your tonsil crypts. And they stink! They’re filled with bacteria, pus, and food debris. See your Ear, Nose and Throat doctor if your bad breath remains unresolved- it may be a hidden tonsil stone!
6. Eating infrequently has an effect on your saliva flow- it makes your mouth dryer. This is basically the dreaded Morning Breath, but it can occur during the day as well. If you can’t eat, at least chew some xylitol gum or mints. Get that saliva flowing again. Drink some water.
7. Mouth Breathers have bad breath, and kids are especially notorious for being mouth breathers. Allergies and adenoids are the main culprit so address those issues. See my Breathing article for more, vital information about this, especially you parents!
8. Some diets, such as a low carbohydrate diet, can cause “ketone breath“. Other than changing your diet, I don’t have any great suggestions here.
9. Medications that cause dry mouth also contribute to halitosis. See my article on Elixir fixer for your dry mouth for product suggestions to wet your whistle!
10. Smoking anything does dry out your mouth, see the above post on dry mouth products. Or, of course, stop smoking!
Is there a mouthwash that really works? Well, sort of- after reviewing the causes of bad breath, can you see why not? I have some products that help kill bacteria so give these a try:
d. Carifree treatment rinse
Most over the counter rinses just give you minty bad breath (which is worse- trust me. I have to smell it regularly) and only cover it up for a few minutes, no matter what their advertising campaign touts. Instead, find the cause, fix it and be truly kissable again! (Somebody you know will thank you.)