A slightly foul mouth odor in the morning is common for most people, even if they brush at night. With proper dental hygiene after waking, the odor quickly goes away. However, some people suffer with persistent bad breath. Brushing, flossing and rinsing with a mouth wash offers only momentary relief, if any. Even mouth sprays, chewing gum and strong breath mints does not do the trick. It is an embarrassing problem but even more important, it may be a sign of some underlying disease that needs medical treatment.
Why Does The Mouth Smell?
Bad breath that recurs or persists in known medically as halitosis. There are several medical reasons why this occurs. But first it is important to understand why we all suffer with that bad morning breath yet we do not have as much of a breath problem during the course of he day. Much of it revolves around good dental hygiene but the mouth has its own natural mechanisms to counteract the causes of bad breath.
- When we eat, tiny food particles get stuck between the teeth and other crevices in the mouth. It is these food particles that nourish bacteria in our mouth.
- Saliva not only helps with lubricating the mouth and partially digesting some nutrients but it also discourages bacteria from growing in the mouth.
- Good dental hygiene (brushing, flossing, mouth wash) will remove these food particles, protect the teeth and destroy some of the bacteria in our mouth.
- As the hard outer layers of the teeth are worn out or damaged, food particles get trapped deeper in and bacteria can thrive here without being interfered by saliva or dental care products.
It would seem logical that bad breath stems from the mouth, but not always. The source of your bad breath could be from your air passages, lungs, upper digestive tract and even due to kidney problems. However, orodental (mouth and teeth) causes are by far the most common cause of persistent bad breath in humans.
It May Be Poor Dental Hygiene
Brush Your Teeth Twice Daily
The main component of good dental hygiene is brushing your teeth. Flossing and rinsing with a mouthwash is also important but cannot replace brushing. You should brush teeth for at least two minutes – one minute for the upper teeth and another minute for the lower teeth. It is important to use a good quality soft toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste. Some people avoid fluoride due to unfounded health concerns but this may be compromising your orodental health. Just as important is brushing your tongue to remove food particles and build up of bacteria. Floss your teeth at least once a day and use a mouth wash after brushing, at least in the morning before you start your day.
It May Be A Tooth Or Gum Disease
See A Dentist or Hygienist Frequently
There are several orodental (mouth and teeth) problems that can contribute to bad breath. Tooth cavities are one common cause. So is a dental abscess. Good dental hygiene may not be able to undo it and it instead needs to be treated by a dental professional. Two other such conditions are gingivitis and periodontitis. Gingivitis involves the gums while peridontitis extends to the deeper tissue and even the bone in the gums. Both these conditions, particularly gingivitis, are common and often remains undiagnosed for long periods of time. Remember that even if your teeth and gums look healthy, you still need an assessment by a dental professional at least twice a year.
It May Be What You Eat And Do
Change Your Diet and Lifestyle
The foods and drinks that you consume can directly contribute to bad breath. Onions and garlic are two well known contributors to bad breath and should therefore be avoided. The same applies to any food that correlates with your bad breath. Alcohol is another contributor. Even though you may not be able to smell the alcoholic drink itself, the byproducts of the metabolized alcohol may be detectable in your breath for hours after consumption. Tobacco smoking and chewing, as well as habitual chewing of other substances may also play a role in halitosis. It is therefore important to discontinue these habits and assess if your bad breath resolves.
It May Be Too Little Saliva
Drink More Water
Saliva plays an important role in keeping down the bacterial population within your mouth. It also helps with “washing down” food particles. If your mouth does not have enough saliva then it can quickly lead to bad breath. It is important to identify why you are producing too little saliva. It could be a medical problem with your salivary glands. Sometimes the cause can lie beyond these glands and the mouth. Drinking more water may not replace saliva but it can help to some degree in removing food particles in the mouth. If diminished saliva production is linked to dehydration, then water will obviously remedy the problem.
It May Be A Throat, Nose Or Sinus Problem
See An Otorhinolaryngologist (ENT)
If you are not experiencing any success with the dental approach, you may have to look around the mouth. The throat, nose and sinuses lie in close proximity to the mouth cavity. Tonsillitis is one of the common causes of bad breath and understandably so since the tonsils lie at the back of the throat. But the nose is also connected to the back of the throat and therefore the mouth. A problem in the nose or paranasal sinuses, particularly an infection, can lead to bad breath. An otorhinolaryngologist (ENT specialist) will be able to detect tonsillitis, rhinitis, sinusitis and related conditions that may not be obvious but contributing to bad breath.
It May Be A Lung, Blood Or Throat Problem
Get A Full Medical Checkup
Halitosis may have nothing to do with the mouth and teeth. There are several medical conditions outside of the mouth that can cause bad breath. A lung abscess and bronchiectasis are two respiratory conditions that may also be a cause. Diabetes mellitus causes a fruity odor of the breath, while liver failure may contribute to a musty breath odor as result of disturbances in metabolism. Sometimes a high level of urea (a nitrogenous waste product) in the blood can also present with bad breath as a symptom.
It May Be Acid Reflux
Treat Your Heartburn
Most people do not know that acid reflux can be a causes of bad breath. Heartburn is not the only symptom of acid reflux. In severe cases the regurgitated contents of the stomach can reach as high as the mouth. But the rising acid can also damage the tonsils and increase the chance of tonsillitis, which is a contributor to bad breath. It is therefore important to treat acid reflux. Eating smaller meals, not lying flat after eating, avoiding trigger foods and drinks, as well as taking antacids and acid-suppressing drugs may be some of the ways to reduce reflux.