What are the causes of bad breath?
by Adam Keller
What are the causes of bad breath? While it is possible for bad breath to emanate from the stomach and the lungs it is in the majority of cases attributable to the mouth or oral cavity. In the mouth there are over 700 different types of bacteria, constantly multiplying to numbers in the millions. Plaque or dental biofilm is the sticky colourless substance that is formed when these bacteria combine with food debris trapped in between the teeth and gums. Bacteria feed on and decompose these food particles resulting in the release of a number of odour emitting gases, the cause of the nasty smell.
It stands to reason that the more biofilm, the more bacterial activity and the greater the volume of gases produced. Therefore individuals with poor oral hygiene, gum disease or simply a higher genetic predisposition to plaque are more likely to suffer from bad breath.
What is ‘morning breath’?
While we sleep our saliva glands produce significantly lower levels of saliva then during waking hours. The dry mouth effect can be further exasperated by breathing through the mouth, the consumption of alcohol during the evening and the use of certain types of medicine. Without saliva bacteria numbers multiply unchecked leading to the increase biofilm and the release of unpleasant smelling gases as food debris is decomposed.
This bad breath problem can be solved in the morning by rinsing with clean water, brushing and then by eating something to stimulate the production of fresh saliva. Some people find that using a dry mouth gel an effective means of preventing the bad breath in the first place. These gels typical act as a saliva substitute, keeping the mouth moist and maintaining the optimal ph level through the night.
Preventing Bad Breath
The solution to achieving all day fresh breath is to control the growth of the bacteria and food debris containing biofilm. In short this comes down to practicing good oral hygiene as follows:
- Regular Brushing – teeth should be brushed after every meal and in the evening before going to bed. If you have difficulty brushing effectively with a manual brush it is advisable to purchase an electric toothbrush. For those with periodontal pockets, bridgework or braces it is also recommended to use a single tufted interspace brush to target difficult to reach areas. If you are unsure how effective your brushing is use one of Plaqsearch disclosing products, which temporarily stain the biofilm to help identify old and new plaque.
- Interdental Cleaning – using a toothbrush alone allows for cleaning of 70% of the tooth surface, leaving the contact points between the teeth and the area below the gum line largely untouched. It is therefore recommended that a separate device be used for cleaning these areas, most commonly floss for narrow or closed contact points and/or interdental brushes for wider gaps.
- Tongue Cleaning – the surface of the tongue is far from smooth with thousands of little crevices that present the perfect environment in which food debris (including dead gum cells) collect and bacteria multiple. Daily use of a tongue cleaner is a very effective way of removing the debris and reducing the bacteria count in the mouth.
- Rinse – to complement the mechanical biofilm removal covered in steps 1-3 it is also advisable to rinse twice daily with an anti-bacterial or anti-microbial mouthwash. Not only will a suitably formulated mouthwash ensure coverage of the more difficult to reach areas of the mouth, it will also provide a sustainable level of protection long after brushing.
- Hygiene Appointments – visit your dentist or hygienist for regular checkups. Professional cleaning on top of your own daily oral care regime will enhance the cleanliness of your mouth and contribute to reducing halitosis and gum disease.
- Diet and Lifestyle – addition tips for maintaining fresh breath include:
- Eat lots of fresh fruit and vegetables
- Control the protein content of the diet – especially red meat
- Avoid foods high in sugar (particularly refined sugars)
- Avoid strong smelling foods
- Stop smoking
- Reduce alcohol consumption
- Increase water consumption
- Reduce the intervals between meals
- Ensure oral disease is treated by a professional