Everyone occasionally experiences halitosis (bad breath). For example, morning breath is a common condition caused by the reduced saliva flow at night (saliva helps wash away food & bacteria in the mouth, keeping the breath fresh). In most cases this is considered normal. However, persistent bad breath can signal dental or other health problems & needs to be addressed. Dr. Nicholas Sowles can help.
What if I suspect I have bad breath?
How do you find out if you have halitosis? People are almost never able to detect when their breath is unpleasant because the nose becomes adapted to one’s own smell. Dr. Sowles can help you assess whether you have a problem with halitosis. Dentists receive extensive training in dental school on identifying & treating the many different causes of bad breath.
Causes of halitosis:
• Inadequate dental hygiene
• Periodontal (gum) disease
• Dry mouth (xerostomia), which can be caused by certain illnesses or medications
• Infections of the respiratory tract, such as throat, lung & sinus infections
• Systemic illnesses like diabetes, liver disease, lung disease, kidney disease & acid reflux
• Cigarette smoking & chewing tobacco
• Certain foods & beverages, like onions, garlic & coffee
In most cases bad breath originates in the oral cavity. Even a healthy mouth contains millions of bacteria. The moist, warm conditions in the mouth are an ideal environment for bacteria to thrive. Without regular & thorough brushing & flossing, food particles will remain in the mouth, creating an unpleasant odor.
Chronic halitosis can also be a warning sign of periodontal (gum) disease. Plaque, an invisible film of bacteria, regularly forms in the mouth. As plaque builds up, it can create toxins that irritate the gums, leading to an infection that can lead to tooth loss if left unchecked. Regular dental checkups can help ensure that periodontal disease is detected & treated early.
Another cause of bad breath is dry mouth. Saliva helps neutralize bacteria & wash away food particles. Therefore, conditions that cause dry mouth (including diabetes, Sjogren’s syndrome & conditions that require radiation therapy) or certain medications (such as drugs for allergies, depression & high blood pressure) can lead to bad breath. If dry mouth is identified as the cause of your halitosis, you can help keep your mouth moist by increasing your fluid intake. Dr. Sowles may also prescribe artificial saliva or a special rinse.
Bad breath can be a symptom of respiratory-tract infections like infections of the throat, lungs or sinus cavity. Respiratory-tract infections will usually be accompanied by symptoms like sore throat, fever, stuffy nose, swollen lymph nodes (swollen glands), yellowish or greenish nasal discharge or mucus-producing cough. After reviewing your symptoms & medical history, Dr. Sowles may refer you to a medical doctor for additional treatment.
Certain foods & beverages can also cause bad breath. Foods like garlic & onions are absorbed into the bloodstream & eventually expelled from the lungs. Mints & mouthwash mask the odor, but this is just a temporary fix. Dieters also sometimes suffer from halitosis.
In rare cases, halitosis may indicate an underlying systemic illness such as diabetes, liver disease, lung disease, kidney disease or acid reflux. Dr. Sowles can help identify the source of your halitosis & refer you for additional tests or treatment if necessary.
Dr. Sowles conducts a thorough exam & medical history in order to determine the source of your halitosis. In the meantime, here are some things you can do to help reduce halitosis.
Tips for keeping your breath fresh:
• Maintain good dental hygiene—brush the teeth, gums & tongue at least twice per day & floss once per day.
• Use a tongue scraper, cleaning as far back on the tongue as possible.
• Drink plenty of water.
• Visit Dr. Sowles at least twice per year for a professional dental examination & cleaning.
• Chew sugar-free gum or suck on sugarless candy.
• Eat foods like raw carrots & celery.
• Dr. Sowles may also recommend specific oral rinses or prescription products.
At the office of Dr. Nicholas Sowles, we are experts in identifying & treating the many different causes of halitosis. We will ask you about your personal habits, diet & medical history, as well as the history of your symptoms. After a thorough physical examination in order to assess the source of the problem, Dr. Sowles will provide you with a treatment plan so you can be confident that your breath is fresh & pleasant to others.
Feel free to contact us if you have any questions about halitosis or to schedule an oral health consultation with Dr. Sowles.