Halitosis is the medical term for persistent bad breath.

Occasional bad breath caused by dietary choices like onions and garlic are a temporary social inconvenience. Persistent bad breath, on the other hand, can be symptomatic of a dental or medical problem that should be treated promptly by your dentist or doctor.

Dental Causes of Halitosis

Poor Dental Hygiene

Poor brushing and flossing habits are a common cause of bad breath. The oral bacteria in plaque feed on food particles left in the mouth and create odor-causing waste products. These oral bacteria also create acids that erode tooth enamel and lead to cavities and gum disease. Your basic oral care should include:

  • Brushing twice a day for two minutes each time and flossing once each day to remove plaque bacteria and the food particles they feed on.
  • Seeing your dentist regularly to monitor your dental health and hygiene.
  • Scheduling professional cleanings to remove plaque and tartar.
  • Giving up tobacco products. These not only cause bad breath, they increase your risk of infections, gum disease, and oral cancer.

Gum Disease

Halitosis is a frequent symptom of gum disease. When plaque and tartar build up, toxins from bacteria irritate gum tissue. This irritation can cause red, swollen, or bleeding gums, as well as persistent bad breath.

Gingivitis, early-stage gum disease, can often be reversed with careful attention to oral hygiene and a professional cleaning to remove plaque and tartar. Periodontitis is a more serious gum infection, where chronic inflammation causes the gums to pull away from the teeth, leaving pockets where more harmful bacteria collect. As the disease progresses, it leads to loose teeth, lost gum and bone tissue, and, eventually, tooth loss.

Treatments for periodontitis include:

  • Topical and oral antibiotics
  • Scaling and planing (deep cleaning procedures)
  • Pocket reduction surgery
  • Gum and bone grafting

Dry Mouth

Saliva helps prevent bad breath by washing away bacteria and food particles. Without sufficient saliva to clean the mouth and neutralize oral acids, you’re at risk not just for halitosis, but for cavities, gum disease, difficulties eating and swallowing, oral sores, and denture discomfort.

Dry mouth, or xerostomia, occurs when saliva production decreases. This condition can be caused by various factors, including medications, illness, radiation therapy, and aging. We can recommend options to help keep your teeth and gums healthy, including:

  • Medication to increase your saliva flow
  • Tips for staying hydrated
  • Fluoride treatment to strengthen tooth enamel
  • Special hydrating rinses or sprays

Oral Infections

Bad breath can be a symptom of an oral infection. Infections can occur in the teeth, gums, and mouth caused by, for example, traumatic injury, bacteria infecting a tooth’s pulp, or, sometimes, infection in or around the wound after a tooth extraction.

If you experience persistent bad breath, a foul smell or taste in your mouth, or see any other signs of infection, visit our office for treatment. Left untreated, oral infections can damage teeth, tissue, and bone and spread to other areas of the body.

When you suffer from chronic halitosis, it’s not just a social inconvenience. Persistent bad breath can be caused by a broad variety of potentially serious dental and medical conditions. Make an appointment with our office to discover the cause of your halitosis and to explore your treatment options.

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