Ever find yourself questioning if you forgot to brush your teeth in the morning? I think we have all been there at some point in our lives. We try to make do by popping mints, chewing gum, or even holding our hands in front of our face. With seeing patients all day, I actually keep a toothbrush handy and nearby. Bad breath is no fun!
Bad breath, medically known as Halitosis, can be more than just simply forgetting to brush your teeth. Some people are prone to suffer from bad breath as a result of poor dental health or even more severe medical problems. Let’s walk through a few reasons for bad breath and what we can do to alleviate it.
Let’s blame it on those garlic and onions! So savory – Mmmmm, but not pleasant on breath. Garlic and onions, and other strong foods for that matter, have such pungent odors that even a good teeth brushing or mouth rinse won’t help. Time is needed for these foods to simply pass through our body.
Poor Oral Health
If we don’t take care of our oral cavity with at least twice daily teeth brushing, flossing, and oral antiseptic mouth rinses, food particles will remain behind in the cracks and crannies of our teeth causing a flourish of odorous bacteria to grow. Three-day-old Cheetos are not helping! Other dental problems such as accelerated decay, dry mouth, or gingivitis are exacerbate the problem.
Need I say more?
Ahh yes, the ole’ strep breath. I’m sure many of us have experienced this gem a time or two in our lives as well. It doesn’t need much explaining – bad throat infections will leave you with bad breath. However, tonsils can become chronically inflamed leaving patients with chronic bad breath. Tonsil stones occur when our tonsil glands have divots or septations that collect food particles. With time, those food particles harden and become like ‘stones’. Tonsil stones tend to recur indefinitely. Here come those Cheetos again!
With your sinuses only one floor above the oral cavity, it makes sense that chronically inflamed sinus and nasal passages can create bad breath. It occurs for the same reasons – bacteria overgrowth, tissue breakdown, and necrotic white blood cells. Folks in this category may have excellent dental or oral health and yet still have bad breath. Patients should be considering their nasal symptoms to find this source – post nasal drainage, sore throat, sinus pressure, and/or recurrent sinus infections.
The stomach can be a culprit as well. Stomach acids were designed to stay in the stomach. They were not designed to reflux up our esophagus and into our oral cavities. This problem is called Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease and is quite prevalent in our day and age. Too much acid touching the back of our throat can certainly leave us with bad breath. Other symptoms include a tickle in the throat, voice hoarseness, or chronic cough.
The list above is certainly not comprehensive. Other medical problems include pneumonia, diabetes, dry mouth, poorly fitting dental appliances, and others.
Okay – so now what? Well, it’s always helpful to talk with your dentist or doctor about your oral health and bad breath, but let’s give you a few tips for treatment before we sign off.
First, take care of your mouth. I mentioned this earlier, but patients should be brushing their teeth at least twice daily, flossing daily, and using a mouth rinse. All of these get rid of harmful left over food and bacteria and promote excellent oral health. Don’t forget to brush your tongue! If you have dental appliances – follow your dentist’s recommendations for cleaning and care. See your dentist regularly for evaluations and cleanings.
Drink lots of water. Drink more water. Then, drink more water.
Avoid foods that you know give you problems – did I mention Jalapenos already?
Stop smoking if you can – consider prescriptive medicines to help you quit.
Consider your tonsils as a source. It’s what we do every day, but consider seeing and Ear, Nose, and Throat specialists to have your tonsils evaluated. If your tonsils are chronically inflamed, rinse them out with a WaterPik twice daily. Having your tonsils removed is a possible treatment option, too.
If your sinuses are bothering you – you guessed it – see an Ear, Nose, and Throat specialist. This is a real common problem for folks who live with it. Lots of folks live with chronic sinus symptoms for years without proper evaluation.
If it’s reflux – stop eating Extra Spicy Burritos. Okay, there’s more to it than that. There are actually many things you can do to help prevent stomach acid coming up into the throat. Lose weight, eat less at each meal, drink only milk and water as liquids, prop the head of your bed up 4-6 degrees at night, avoid eating meals right before going to bed and many more. Sometimes daily antacid medicines are needed to prevent bad breath.