Halitosis is a chronic condition that often causes embarrassment and anxiety. Individuals with halitosis experience an unpleasant mouth odor that does not resolve with typical oral hygiene methods such as brushing, flossing, and the use of mouthwash. Experts believe up to eighty percent of halitosis cases are caused by oral health concerns, and eleven different types of the condition have been identified. Halitosis can occur in both children and adults, and an estimated fifty million Americans are affected by the condition. Dry mouth, dieting, and certain medical conditions may sometimes cause halitosis as well. Some dentists specialize in halitosis treatment, and general dentists, periodontists, and medical professionals can all provide treatment advice and resources. The following interventions may help in resolving halitosis.
Evaluation For An Underlying Condition
Acid reflux, diabetes, sinus infections, kidney issues, and dry mouth are some of the medical conditions that may lead to halitosis. The specific smell of the breath can often provide clues as to the particular underlying condition an individual may be experiencing. Patients who struggle with acid reflux or frequent indigestion (heartburn) may notice a bad taste in their mouths. Individuals with sinus infections may have mucus buildup that causes a similar unpleasant taste. If the breath has a fruity odor or smells like acetone, this can be indicative of diabetes. Patients who have kidney issues may sometimes notice their breath smells a bit like ammonia.
Bowel issues, poor digestion, and an imbalance of bacteria in the stomach may inhibit the proper breakdown of foods by the body. This may cause the breath to take on the odor of whatever food the patient has most recently consumed. Dry mouth is a medical condition that may lead to bad breath as it causes reduced saliva in the mouth. It is a common side effect of antidepressants, antihistamines, and medication used to treat high blood pressure. Patients who notice they have a breath odor that is not normal for them, particularly if it is fruity or smells of ammonia, should consider visiting a doctor to have an evaluation for underlying conditions.
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Consume Less Sugar
Consuming lots of simple carbohydrates and sugar can lead to the formation of plaque and trigger tooth decay, both of which can result in halitosis. Simple carbohydrates such as the white sugar found in candies, soda, and baked goods remain on the teeth for longer than other types of foods and are particularly damaging to the tooth surface. Within two minutes of ingesting these substances, acids attack teeth and erode its enamel. Frequently consuming acidic foods, including sugary ones like citrus fruits, dried fruits, and tomatoes can change the pH in the mouth from neutral to acidic, allowing bacteria, plaque formation, and cavities to flourish. Untreated cavities often cause an unpleasant odor in the mouth.
Avoid sodas and fruit juices to avoid less sugar and acid, and try to choose complex carbohydrates such as brown rice, wholewheat bread, and oatmeal in place of white rice or sugary cereals. To protect teeth, try to keep added sugars to no more than twenty-five grams a day for women and thirty-six grams a day for men. Sugar intake can be tracked with many online apps or a food diary.
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Check Teeth For Plaque And Tartar
Plaque is a sticky, clear film that forms on the teeth and at the gum line. This film is acidic and full of bacteria that erode teeth and cause decay (soft spots in the teeth that require dental fillings). Plaque can be removed through brushing and flossing. However, it usually accumulates again within twelve hours of brushing, which is why it is so important to brush the teeth at least twice a day. Plaque that isn't removed with oral hygiene routines at home will harden and form a calcified plaque known as tartar. Tartar cannot be removed through home methods and must be removed with a professional dental cleaning. Most patients need to have a dental checkup and cleaning every six months.
During this appointment, the dentist or dental hygienist will check teeth for plaque and tartar. Depending on the amount found, they will remove it with a series of handheld dental scalers or with an electronic device known as an ultrasonic scaler. Ultrasonic scaling helps with removing plaque below the gum line. Patients who have high levels of plaque and are at a high risk of tooth decay may need to have professional cleanings every three months. For many individuals, these professional cleanings can help reduce or eliminate bad breath if home methods have proved ineffective.
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Rinse With Mouthwash
Mouthwashes contain a variety of ingredients that help eliminate bad breath and strengthen teeth. Some can even help alleviate the symptoms of dry mouth. One of the most common ingredients found in mouthwash is fluoride, a mineral that strengthens tooth enamel and protects against decay, and some mouthwashes also contain xylitol, another substance that can neutralize acids. When choosing a mouthwash, aim for one without alcohol as this ingredient can dry out the mouth and make halitosis worse. Rinse with mouthwash after brushing and flossing, and swish the mouthwash around in the mouth for at least thirty to sixty seconds. Mouthwashes can be used once or twice a day. Prescription mouthwashes are available for individuals who need extra protection against dry mouth, decay, and halitosis.
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Brush The Tongue
Just like the teeth and gums, the tongue is also a primary target for bacteria. Even though it is not at risk for decay, bacteria from foods can accumulate in between the taste buds on the tongue. While this buildup is usually clear in color, some individuals may experience a coated tongue, which is a condition that refers to a buildup of skin cells, bacteria, and other debris on the tongue, and can be caused by smoking, dry mouth, and yeast infections. Experts recommend cleaning the tongue at least once per day, and this can be done with the toothbrush at the same time as brushing the teeth. Some patients with halitosis may prefer to use a tongue scraper, which can be purchased at most pharmacies. When brushing the tongue, brush both side to side and front to back to cover the entire tongue surface. After cleaning the tongue, rinse the mouth with water.