Bad breath is a sensitive subject, and can affect a person’s self esteem. There are many potential causes, but about 85% of the time, the mouth is the source. When the mouth is the cause of bad breath, food, oral habits and dental health should be examined first. Foods or beverages such as garlic, onions, and coffee, and habits such as smoking and chewing tobacco can contribute to bad breath. Dental problems including broken teeth that trap food, infected teeth that abscess, and untreated periodontal (gum) disease are the most likely causes of bad breath. Another potential source of bad breath is the type of bacteria in our mouths. A recent study reveals that certain bacteria may be associated with fresh and bad breath.
If the teeth and gums are healthy, the tongue is the most likely cause of bad breath. The top, back part of the tongue is a common and sometimes overlooked cause of bad breath. There is speculation that chronic postnasal drip that collects on the tongue becomes infiltrated with bacteria causing odor. Researchers from the Forsyth Institute and the University Of Michigan School Of Dentistry analyzed the type of bacteria found on people’s tongues. The small study showed that three types of bacteria, Streptococcus salivarius, Rothia mucilaginosa and a strain of Eubacterium were commonly associated with fresh breath. Six other types of bacteria were also found in people with bad breath. Tongue brushing and the use of a tongue-scraper can help remove bacteria associated with bad breath.
Excellent oral hygiene, brushing at least three times a day and flossing once a day is essential for optimal dental health and for fighting bad breath. Oral odors may be reduced by chewing sugarless gum and drinking water throughout the day to moisten the mouth. If odor persists after the teeth, gums, and tongue are clean and healthy, an antiseptic mouth rinse containing chlorhexidine gluconate can be prescribed. If none of these measures succeed, a medical doctor should be consulted to explore other potential causes.
Bad breath is a sensitive topic that should be discussed with a dentist. As research continues, new treatments may be developed to directly target bacteria associated with bad breath. For now, a dentist can help to discover the most likely cause and help alleviate the problem.