Elite Dental of Staten Island

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Bad breath could be a sign of health issues

Most of us are affected by bad breath at some point.

Really, who hasn’t indulged in too much garlic and onions or a tuna sandwich from time to time? But, if you suffer from persistent bad breath, it could be a sign of some other underlying health problems.

Here’s what you should know about bad breath, and what you can do about it…

What causes bad breath?

We all know that there are certain foods that cause bad breath — those with very strong odors, like garlic and onions, for example. But, poor oral hygiene can also lead to bad breath, a condition also known as halitosis. If you don’t brush and floss regularly, food particles are left in the mouth, leading to the growth of bacteria on, between and around the teeth, gums, and tongue. Bacteria, together with decaying food particles, produce an unpleasant smell. Similarly, inadequately cleaned dentures can cause odors, as can smoking, which tends to dry out the mouth.

Having a dry mouth can cause bad breath, as saliva actually helps to keep the mouth clean. Individuals with a salivary gland condition, as well as those with sleep disorders, may experience dry mouth. Certain medications, including those formulated for the treatment of high blood pressure, can also cause mouth dryness.

What health issues are linked to bad breath?

In many cases, bad breath is a sign of gum disease. The normal bacteria in our mouths, along with mucus and other particles form a sticky plaque on the surface of the teeth. While plaque can be removed by brushing and flossing, it can harden into tartar over time if it is not removed. The longer plaque and tartar stay on the teeth, the more harmful they become —in fact, they can cause inflammation of the gums and eventually lead to gum disease. If left untreated, gum disease can cause serious damage to the teeth and soft tissues in the mouth, and eventually result in tooth loss. Tartar can also cause pockets to form in the area between the teeth and gums, where food, bacteria, and plaque can collect and cause an unpleasant odor.

There are a number of other health problems that are associated with bad breath. An unpleasant smell in the mouth can occur if you have a sinus infection, an infection in the upper or lower respiratory system, or chronic bronchitis. Bad breath can also be a symptom of some serious health conditions, including diabetes, kidney disease, and gastroesophageal reflux disorder.

Can I prevent bad breath?

One of the most effective ways of preventing bad breath is to practice good oral health habits — brush your teeth at least twice a day and floss daily to ensure that you remove any food particles that are stuck between your teeth. Don’t forget to brush your tongue to remove any bacteria that has accumulated and use an anti-bacterial mouthwash. It also helps to stay properly hydrated by drinking enough water throughout the day.

How can we help?

We highly recommend that you come in and see us for regular check-ups and cleans. This will allow us to pick up on any issues early and provide you with any relevant advice when it comes to your oral hygiene.

If you suffer from persistent bad breath and any other symptoms of gum disease — bleeding or swollen gums, mouth sores, receding gums, a bad taste in your mouth, sensitive  or loose teeth, or a change in bite alignment, for example — don’t hesitate to make an appointment. Thanks to advancements in modern dentistry, the effects of gum disease can now be stopped, and disease progression can be halted with proper treatment, especially when it is diagnosed early.