Treating bad breath is big business. Just check your local drug store or supermarket and you'll find a mind-numbing array of mints, gums, mouthwashes, sprays, strips and other products that promise to sweeten your breath and make you (or your mouth at least) irresistible. But most of these products only mask halitosis (from the Latin “halitus” – exhalation, and Greek “osis” – disease) and some even contain ingredients, like sugar, that contribute to tooth decay and gum disease. In most cases, for enduring, healthful results, nothing beats a trusty toothbrush, toothpaste and floss, used faithfully and correctly, along with periodic dental checks and cleanings.
Oral bacteria are the number one reason for noxious breath. More than 600 types inhabit our mouth, and some of them emit awful odors — predominantly volatile sulfur compounds characterized by a “rotten egg” smell) — as they consume remnants of food trapped in our mouth. Brushing and flossing regularly, especially after eating, can dislodge food trapped between teeth (interdental) and under the gums (subgingival), depriving microbes of a ready-made meal. It also disrupts the buildup of sticky plaque (microbial “biofilms”) where odor-causing germs can flourish.
When cleaning your mouth, pay special attention to the back of the tongue. It is the primary location for generating halitosis because it is drier and less efficiently cleansed by saliva and normal oral activity than the front. Our office can instruct you on proper oral hygiene including the gentle use of a tongue scraper or brush.
Sometimes more involved periodontal techniques such as scaling and root planing (deep cleaning) are called for; antibiotics may be useful in targeting the offending microbes. If tooth decay and/or periodontal (or gum) disease is contributing to halitosis appropriate treatment is necessary.
Remember that foul breath is just a symptom of some underlying condition. If diligent oral care at home doesn't do the trick, our office can help you get to the root of the problem and determine the appropriate therapy.
If you would like more information about halitosis and ways to prevent or treat it, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Bad Breath.”