Bad breath can be caused by many factors. Malodorous “morning mouth,” a universal issue among adults, occurs after the oral cavity has become dry and inactive overnight. Brushing the teeth usually relieves it. Garlic breath or smoker’s breath has an obvious, odiferous cause—and the same effect may be produced by alcohol, cheese, and many other substances. But in many cases of bad breath, the culprit isn’t something you take into your mouth, it’s something that’s already there: namely, bacteria.
The mouth is home to over 600 types of bacteria—some helpful, and others harmful. Many of the harmful types thrive in the sticky biofilm called plaque, which stubbornly clings to the tooth surfaces. If they aren’t removed regularly, these microorganisms can cause tooth decay, gum disease, and other ills. Brushing and flossing your teeth (along with professional cleanings at the dental office) are the main methods of controlling plaque. But sometime, even conscientious at-home care isn’t enough to keep those bacteria from proliferating.
When harmful bacteria are allowed to build up around the gums, on the tongue, and in the spaces between teeth, bad breath often results. The bacteria release a number of smelly substances—including some particularly odiferous ones called volatile sulfur compounds (VSCs), which have a characteristic rotten-egg aroma. These are among the primary components of bad breath.
Odor-causing bacteria that live on the tongue can often be controlled by brushing or another form of tongue cleaning. But the ones that thrive in hard-to-reach places, such as underneath the gum line, aren’t so easy to control. These bacteria not only cause bad breath, but are also responsible for periodontal (gum) disease. In fact, bad breath itself is one of the key symptoms of gum disease.
While some form of gum disease is prevalent in 85% of the adult population, severe gum disease (periodontitis) is believed to affect only up to 12 percent of American adults. Many more have a less-serious form called gingivitis. In either case, if the disease is left untreated it can have negative consequences for your oral health—besides causing bad breath. Periodontal disease is the major cause of tooth loss in adults, and is thought to increase the risks associated with other systemic diseases, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis.
What can be done about periodontal disease? The first line of defense is an effective oral hygiene routine: brushing regularly, watching your diet, and flossing at least once a day can help prevent this disease from taking hold. But sometimes that isn’t enough. When gums become painful or inflamed; if they bleed during brushing; or if you have persistent bad breath—then it’s time to see your dentist or periodontist (a dentist who specializes in treating the gums).
There are a number of methods for treating periodontal disease. Non-surgical procedures include deep cleaning of the tooth roots and the local application of antimicrobials. For more advanced problems, conventional or laser gum surgery may be recommended. Instruction in effective oral hygiene techniques is also a major part of treatment. But here’s some good news: Besides improving your overall oral health, studies have shown that periodontal therapy can reduce volatile sulfur compounds by 40-60 percent.
Bad breath can be a social embarrassment—but it can also be a much deeper issue. If persistent bad breath is a problem, then maybe it’s time to seek help from a dental professional.
To learn more call one of our :DP AtYourService Customer Care Representatives at 1-800-238-5163.