Bad breath is not just a social problem; it is a health issue and the first thing to do to eliminate bad breath, recommends Dr. Douglas Ng, DDS of San Luis Obispo Family Dentistry, is to get a thorough dental check up. The Mayo Clinic reports that one of the most common sources of bad breath is the tongue, especially the back of the tongue and there are other sources as well.
Bad breath is a sign of problems with oral health and in some instances can be a signal for other health issues. Conditions such as postnasal drip, respiratory and tonsil infections, sinus problems diabetes, liver and kidney issues and certain blood disorders can all contribute to bad breath. In some rare cases it can be a sign of cancer or a metabolic disorder. When the dentist does not discover a dental problem patients are referred to a medical doctor.
Some of the top causes of bad breath include:
- Eating spicy food, and food flavored with onions, garlic, and other savor ingredients. Odor causing particles enter the bloodstream and are carried to the lungs where they affect your breath. A change in diet should reduce “spicy breath” within a few days.
- Coffee and alcohol cause a decrease in saliva production and less saliva means an increase in odor-causing bacteria. Brush or rinse with a tall glass of water after consuming these beverages.
- Consuming high-sugar food and beverages could be a cause of bad breath because the bacteria that naturally live in our mouths feeds on sugar, causing sour smells. “Reducing sugar in the diet is good for all around health,” said the San Luis Obispo dentist.
- Low-carb and high protein diets can cause bad breath. Carbohydrates serve critical functions in our bodies and when our diets are too low, changes in the body’s metabolism can cause bad breath. Likewise, high-protein foods can be difficult to digest and release sulfurous gases. The answer is to eat a balanced and nutritious diet.
- Smoking or chewing tobacco not only causes bad breath, the habits lead to serious oral and overall health issues. The habits damage the gums and cause gum disease.
- Poor digestion, constipation and bowel disorders can case bad breath. See your doctor about any disorder or problem with digestion.
- Dry mouth caused by diet, smoking, snoring, illegal or prescription drugs means that saliva production is compromised and bad breath is one of the results. Saliva is important for breaking down bacteria in the mouth. Drinking water and rinsing the mouth frequently can help, but if dry mouth persists for any reason, see your dentist for recommendations to help manage dry mouth.
In most cases bad breath is a product of temporary diet changes or someone getting a little too busy and neglecting their dental health. A good check-up will determine the cause and some changes in habits will make a big difference.
There is no replacement for good oral health and dental habits. In addition to regular brushing (including the tongue), flossing, rinsing and regular dental checkups, let your dentist know as soon as you notice any change in your mouth, gums, or teeth, including your breath. Treatments for bad breath vary depending on the cause. Your dentist will examine your teeth and gums, ask questions about your oral health habits, diet, and other habits that can affect your breath and make recommendations based on the results of the examination. Recommendations might also include a medical referral.
Dr. Ng and the staff at San Luis Obispo Family Dentistry has been providing families along the Central Coast with quality since 2008. A Southern California native, he was a Regents Scholar at the University of California, Riverside where he graduated with honors. He then attended Loma Linda University School of Dentistry where he received his DDS and has since dedicated his professional career to providing his patients with the best that dentistry has to offer.