What Causes Bad Breath?


Bad Breath, an embarrassing problem our dental hygienists get asked about a lot. However, its not always a dental hygiene issue.

Most of us don’t want to discuss the problem even though it affects one person in four.

Sulphur- emitting substances in the mouth typically trigger the odour. The degree to which the breath smells depends on the level of odour-causing bacteria or decaying cells in the mouth.

Gum disease is the most frequent cause of bad breath: it leads to gum inflammation making them separate from the teeth, creating gaps, called pockets, that trap bacteria.

The poorer your dental hygiene or the more crowded/crossed and hard to clean between your teeth are, the more likely it is that you’ll suffer problems.

However, you don’t have to have gum disease — or poor dental hygiene — to have bad breath… so how can you help yourself.

Brush your tongue daily…
The most common area for bacteria to build up is right at the back of the tongue. It’s an area most of us don’t include in our daily tooth cleaning regime. Mouthwash also helps as part of a daily routine as it inhibits the growth of bacteria that cause odour and neutralises bad smelling compounds.

Talking too much…
Maybe your job requires it but regardless, the solution is quite simple — sip water throughout the day to keep the mouth moist.

Stress affects saliva flow…
Which dries the mouth. Cleaning, flossing and using mouthwash are important if you are under pressure at work or in life or both!

The act of eating helps reduce bad breath…
Yes, we thought you’d like to hear that! Studies by the Dental Clinic of the University of Bern in Switzerland found breath odour was reduced for an average of 2½ hours after eating — longer if the meal contained fibre, which acts almost like a toothbrush. Fasting plans or high-protein/low-carb diets that switch the body into a state called ketosis where it burns fat for fuel can trigger bad breath. Drinking more water or peppermint tea and chewing parsley can help disguise it.

Stones in your mouth…
Your tonsils are not smooth… they contain dips and pits called crypts. If food gets caught in these crypts it creates an environment where bacteria can thrive. Salt gargles and antibiotics can reduce tonsil stones by killing bacteria.

Stomach bacteria…
This is found in the stomach of 40 per cent of the population. It’s most commonly associated with the development of stomach ulcers, but it has also been linked to bad breath caused by acid reflux.

Blocked sinuses…
When you have sinusitis, mucus, which has high levels of proteins that feed the odour-causing bacteria, drips down the nose into the throat. Use nasal aids to ease the problem.

Dr Matt Lawler

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