Bye Bye Bad Breath

Halitosis Prevention Is Easier Than You Think

by Dr. Edmond Suh // April - May - June 2018

No one intentionally wants to walk around with bad breath and it can be an awkward conversation to tell a family member, friend, or colleague, let alone a complete stranger, that his or her breath stinks. The good news is preventing bad breath is easier than treating it and it starts with good oral hygiene. 

Bad breath, the common term for halitosis, affects about 30% of people worldwide. Generally, it is caused by a buildup of anaerobic bacteria in the mouth, which do not require oxygen to live and are part of the normal oral environment. They aide in digestion by helping the body breakdown proteins. As these bacteria feed on the protein supply, they also release waste in the form of volatile sulfur compounds, which if not balanced, cause the breath to worsen. According to the Academy of General Dentistry, in more than 90% of bad breath cases, foul odor starts in the mouth, throat, and tonsils. 

Preventing bad breath and keeping this naturally occurring bacteria in check starts with the fundamentals of good oral hygiene: brushing, flossing, and rinsing with an alcohol-free mouthwash, which prevents drying out the mouth. Dry mouth is one of the most common causes of bad breath, as it provides the anaerobic bacteria an ideal environment for reproducing.

Dry mouth can be caused by a number of factors such as snoring, drinking alcohol, and prolonged speaking. Some medications like antidepressants, blood pressure, and antihistamines can also reduce saliva production. “Morning breath,” which many experience when waking, is generally caused from the lack of saliva production while sleeping, drying out the mouth. For those suffering from chronic dry mouth, even minor food odors can be more pronounced. 

Some foods contribute to bad breath. Onions and garlic are probably the two foods that come to mind for most people as they are malodorous. Both contain sulfur compounds which create their foul smell and contribute to bad breath. Of course, they are not the only culprits – foods that are acidic like coffee and juices provide the anaerobic bacteria a perfect breeding ground. In addition, dense protein sources like meat, fish, and dairy are a buffet for anaerobic bacteria to feed on, again increasing the sulfur compound waste they produce. Foods that are high in fiber help reduce bad breath, as does drinking water – but the simplest way to prevent bad breath associated with food is by brushing your teeth after meals.

Bad breath is rarely associated with life-threatening diseases; however, it can be caused by certain illnesses. Those with lung, liver, or kidney disease; respiratory tract infections; metabolic disorders; and diabetes can experience chronic bad breath due to dry mouth. Additionally, sinusitis, post-nasal drip, pneumonia, bronchitis, dehydration, and zinc deficiency can also contribute to bad breath.
The best prevention of bad breath is to have routine dental check-ups at least twice a year and maintain good oral hygiene by brushing, flossing, and rinsing. Talk to your dentist if you have concerns about bad breath so he or she can rule out causes related to any dental problems. Your family doctor may also help solve issues with bad breath, especially if you have an infection. 

Dr. Edmond Suh

Owner of Supremia Dentistry, located at 1711 S. Main St. in Wake Forest.