It is embarrassing when someone points out that you have bad breath or offers a mint. But a mint or mouthwash will only temporarily cover the problem and not address the reasons for oral malodor.
Dry mouth is the most common reason for bad breath. Dry mouth can be caused by various medications, salivary gland problems, or mouth breathing. Dry mouth also occurs when one is dehydrated or during sleep when the body slows down the production of saliva. A dry mouth leads to dead cells on the tongue. The bacteria break down these dead cells which in turn emits a foul odor. Artificial saliva, increased fluid intake, or using sugarless candy can increase salivary flow.
Gum disease can cause persistent oral malodor as well as a bad taste in the mouth. While gum disease does have a hereditary component, it is more commonly caused by improper plaque removal from teeth. Regular tooth brushing and flossing can remove this plaque and prevent gum disease and associated oral malodor.
Smoking and tobacco not only stain teeth and are bad for overall health, but it can contribute to oral malodor. Tobacco reduces the ability to taste food and irritates gum tissue. Tobacco users are more likely to suffer from gum disease and are at a greater risk for developing oral cancer. There are medications and other techniques available that can help break the tobacco habit.
Some medical conditions have symptoms related to bad breath: sinus or lung infections, bronchitis, diabetes, and some liver or kidney diseases may be associated with bad breath.
Maintaining good oral hygiene and eliminating gum disease are essential to reducing bad breath. This can be done by brushing your teeth twice per day, flossing the teeth once per day, and brushing your tongue on a daily basis. It is important to note that mouthwash and mints will only mask oral malodor temporarily. Regular dental check-ups allow dental professionals to detect any problems such as gum disease or dry mouth. If the dentist determines your mouth is healthy, oral malodor may be the sign of a medical disorder and the dentist may refer you to your primary care physician.
If there is concern over bad breath, it's time for a dental visit!