Bad Breath – Causes and Treatment

Chronic bad breath, also known as halitosis, can be very embarrassing, but it is nearly always treatable. As is the case with many common dental problems, curing bad breath is frequently as simple as improving your oral hygiene or changing your diet. However, in other cases, bad breath indicates more serious health problems that may require professional medical attention.

Causes of Bad Breath

Bacterial Infections

The most common cause of bad breath is bacterial buildup in the mouth, especially around the teeth, gums, and tongue. These bacteria feed on carbohydrates such as sugars left in the mouth after eating, causing the buildup known as plaque that is responsible for gum disease (gingivitis) and tooth decay (cavities). As these bacteria break down food and multiply, they emit a foul odor. Decaying teeth and infected gums make the odor worse.

Certain Foods

Some foods also tend to cause bad breath. Garlic, onions, and other foods containing volatile oils are common culprits, as the oils they contain are transmitted to the lungs for days after being consumed. Other food matter can cause bad breath as it breaks down in the mouth.

Certain Medical Conditions

In certain cases, bad breath can be linked to medical conditions that do not directly affect the teeth, gums, or tongue. Sinus infections and other such conditions that cause a nasal discharge into the throat may be responsible for bad breath, as may throat and respiratory infections. The blood sugar fluctuations associated with diabetes often make the breath smell unpleasantly fruity. Acid reflux (GERD) can also cause bad breath.

Certain forms of bad breath may even indicate life-threatening medical conditions. Some cancers and metabolic disorders may cause chronic bad breath. In addition, liver failure can cause the breath to smell like fish, while kidney failure can cause a urine-like breath odor. If you have an unusual breath odor, such as these, that persists, you should be examined promptly by your doctor.

Treating and Preventing Bad Breath

Many people rely on mints, chewing gum, and other such products to control bad breath, but these strategies simply mask the odor without addressing its underlying causes. The most common cause of bad breath is food breakdown and bacteria in the mouth, which can be easily remedied with improved dental hygiene. Regular flossing and brushing in conjunction with periodic professional cleaning appointments are enough to control plaque and keep the mouth healthy and odor free. The other important step many people take is to avoid behaviors that can cause bad breath, such as eating certain foods and using tobacco products.

What are exposed dental necks?

In about 20 per cent of the population, the gums recede during the lifetime and expose the underlying dental necks: the teeth become longer and react painfully to touch, sweet/sour and hot/cold stimuli. Pain on tooth brushing, eating, drinking and sometimes even breathing is the result. This occurs mainly due to incorrect teeth cleaning: hard toothbrushes, powerful toothpastes or brushing too strongly rapidly abrade the thin cement layer of the exposed dental necks. The sensitive dentine with its pain-conducting tubules lies exposed.
In addition, the unprotected dental neck is in danger of tooth neck caries. This arises because harmful acids demineralise not only the crown enamel of the tooth but also the dentine. Tooth neck caries can, however, be prevented or stabilised.

Special care for exposed dental necks

Healthy gums are pale pink, fill the interdental spaces between the teeth completely and do not bleed when touched. When gingivitis is present, the gums are inflamed. They are reddened, swollen and bleed easily.
Correct oral hygiene is an important factor. Horizontal scrubbing and too hard a toothbrush damage the gums and dental necks. In addition this may lead to excessive dentine abrasion, referred to as wedge-shaped defects. The toothbrush should therefore be soft and have well-rounded bristles. The toothbrush should be replaced regularly, i.e. every 46 weeks. It is also important that the toothpaste has a low abrasivity (approx. RDA 30) so that the softer dentine on the dental neck is not excessively abraded. The dentist or dental hygienist will instruct patients in the correct cleaning technique

Bass cleaning technique for adults

A systematic and appropriate brushing technique is crucial for an effective oral hygiene. Horizontal scrubbing with much pressure applied has to be avoided under all circumstances. The modified Bass cleaning technique has proven its worth both for people with healthy gums and for gingivitis and periodontitis patients. Place the toothbrush at the gum margin at an angle of 45°. Press the bristles against the teeth and gums softly. Move the toothbrush with small, vibratory to and from motions. Thus, food residues and dental plaque will be removed thoroughly but gently. Brush your teeth systematically: start with the outer surfaces, next the inner surfaces and lastly the chewing surfaces. Always start with the back teeth as they are most difficult to clean. For cleaning the inner surfaces of the front teeth, put the toothbrush in an upright position and place the bristles at the gum margin. Move the toothbrush in the direction: from the gums to the tooth.

The right diet for healthy teeth

Caries is caused by sugar. It makes no difference whether it is refined sugar, unrefined sugar or honey. They are all much the same when it comes to causing tooth decay. Because of their stickiness, natural foodstuffs sweetened with honey are often more dangerous than other sugar-containing foods.It doesn’t matter how much sugar you eat, but rather the number of portions into which you divide it. The more often you eat sugar, the greater the damage. So it’s better to have one large portion and then clean your teeth immediately!In particular, the danger of sweetened drinks is often underestimated. Fizzy drinks contain about 10 g sugar in 0.1 litre. The risk is especially high if these beverages are taken in many small sips.Snacks between meals may safely consist of vegetables, bread, butter, cheese, sausages, milk and unsweetened mineral water or tea. Fresh fruit is also suitable, as it isn’t sticky. Saliva rapidly washes away fruit sugars, since the salivary flow is strongly activated by the acids found in fruit. So only small amounts of fruit sugars and acids remain in the mouth. They can be rinsed out with water or a fluoride-containing oral rinsing solution. You should not eat too much fruit, however. With frequent consumption, the fruit acids also remove calcium from the tooth enamel.Bananas and dried fruits are not suitable snacks as they are sticky and contain sugar. Avoid eating chocolate, cream desserts and ice cream, as well as yoghurts and drinks sweetened with sugar, if you can’t clean your teeth immediately afterwards.

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