Bad breath is a common ailment that can result from a number of conditions. Bad breath could be caused by food, dry mouth, poor dental health or hygiene, or a consequence of other health issues like bronchitis, diabetes, or liver and kidney problems. The clinical term for bad breath is halitosis, and understanding it can help to treat and prevent it.
Any food particles that remain in the mouth produce bacterial growth in and around the teeth, tongue and gums. Neglected dentures may produce similar odorous results. Smoking and chewing tobacco dry the mouth, cause bad breath, stain teeth, irritate the gums, and diminish one’s ability to taste different types of foods.
Once ingested, food is broken down in the mouth and passes through the digestive system. Capillaries in the blood absorb food molecules and carry them to the lungs. Foods with strong odors like hot chili, garlic and onions will transmit this odor through the circulatory system and out through the lungs. The actual culprits are sulfur compounds in the food. Sulfur is extracted from the amino acids in food and turns into cysteine, a chemical that produces a rotten egg smell. Foods that are high in sulfur contribute more to bad odors than other consumables. Sulfur can be found in dense protein foods like beans, sugars (including alcohol), and acids.
Persistent bad breath or a foul taste in the mouth could be warning signs that the gums are diseased. A constant buildup of plaque accelerates the presence of bacteria; bacteria releases toxins that can irritate and infect the gums. Gingivitis is a mild form of periodontal disease that causes the gums to become swollen, red and susceptible to easy bleeding.
Other potential causes of gingivitis are: aging; diabetes; tobacco use; hormonal fluctuations; substance abuse; stress; poor nutrition; and puberty.
Uncontrolled gingivitis may advance to periodontitis. This condition happens when plaque spreads and grows under the gum line. The toxins produced create an inflammatory reaction that eventually destroys the bones and tissues that hold the teeth. The teeth may become loose, so loose that they fall out or must be removed. Advanced periodontitis may cause the entire gum structure to deteriorate.
The best preventive care for good oral hygiene is a regular routine of brushing, flossing and anti-bacterial rinses daily. If sugars are consumed in the evening, then another brushing is recommended. Drinking plenty of water can help prevent dry-mouth, keeping oral bacteria at bay with healthy saliva. Most important in preventive care are regular dental visits to examine the condition of the gums and teeth. A dentist can provide thorough teeth cleaning to remove tarter and plaque, perform x-rays on suspect teeth and root systems, and screen for gum diseases in early stages. Your dentist can treat most causes of bad breath, including prescribing antibiotics to combat serious infections. A dentist may also implement a change of diet, restricting harmful and non-nutritious foods. Children are especially prone to early dental decay and should be checked regularly throughout their early life by a dentist.