Dr. Richard Warner, Family Dentist in Council Bluffs
Not all bad breath stems from a dental problem. Bad breath can be caused by systemic things, like diabetes, liver failure, high protein/low carbohydrate diets, and internal bleeding. Sinus infections and chronic sinus drainage are frequent causes. You need to see your doctor about these things.
But, if the source of the issue is in the mouth we may be able to help... read on!
First Step... Find out if the bad breath is from your mouth
If you aren’t sure, here’s a couple of simple tests. Lick the back of your wrist, let it dry, then smell your wrist. You can also try the spoon test-- scrape the back of your tongue with a spoon and give it a sniff. If it makes you want to pass out you may well have a problem. Out of respect for your friends, try the tips on this page and see what you can do!
Your tongue can be ground zero. Some people have very pronounced papillae and taste buds on their tongues. These can trap bacteria and food debris that lead to bad breath. Fortunately if this is your problem the solution is simple. Get a tongue scraper at your drug store and make that a part of your oral hygiene routine; use it just after you brush your teeth. There are many styles and they aren’t expensive; find one that works for you. Feel free to call or e-mail us and we’ll tell you which brands we use. Not everyone needs a tongue scraper. Try one, and if you find you are cleaning a lot of foul smelling material off your tongue then you are a person who will benefit from regular use of a tongue scraper. Most of the bad breath comes from the far back part of the tongue, so make sure you get back there with your tongue scraper.
Food trapped between teeth can very definitely be a cause of bad breath. The bits of the sandwich you ate for lunch will smell every bit as bad stuck between your teeth as would your car if you tossed the leftovers in the back seat and left them there for a week. This is easy to test. Brush your teeth like you normally do. Now run some floss between every tooth and smell the floss. Bad news? If the odor sends your swooning think what the junk you’ve been leaving between your teeth everyday is doing to your breath. Solution? Just make flossing a habit. It only takes a couple of minutes and will become part of your routine after awhile. There a lots of kinds of floss; experiment or contact us and we’ll be glad to make a recommendation that’s appropriate to you and your specific teeth.
Gum (periodontal) disease has a very distinctive odor, and it’s not a good one. The bad smell is so characteristic of this malady that any experienced dentist or dental hygienist usually picks up on it in a new patient before we even look into their mouth. Unfortunately there is no home remedy. On the positive side it’s something that we can usually treat without too much difficulty. Click here for a list of some signs that you may have periodontal disease.
Deep cavities can cause bad breath. You may not be aware you have dental decay; many times it occurs between teeth, under the gumline, or around old restorations and be difficult for you to see. If you have a lot of sensitivity to sweets or cold things it may be a sign. Get a checkup and if there’s decay get it fixed!
Stress can indirectly cause bad breath. When a person experiences stress saliva production is inhibited; this allows bacteria to stick to your teeth and produce volatile sulfur compounds. If you feel tense and are concerned about what this is doing to your breath drink more water.
Foods can make a difference. Most people recognize that onion and garlic can have a significant effect on breath, but other spicy foods can as well. Alcoholic beverages have a drying effect and can effect breath for several hours. Green tea effects breath less than coffee.
Grab apple slices, celery, and carrots from the refreshment tray. These firm foods help scrape softer food debris and plaque off your teeth. Parsley is good at masking odors. Also, stay hydrated; drinking water helps.
What about mouth rinse?
Most just mask odors, not address the underlying problem, so it’s best to figure out the true cause if for no other reason than that it might be a warning sign of a serious health problem.
If you do want a chemical solution look for mouthwashes and toothpastes with one or both of these two ingredients: chlorine dioxide and zinc chloride. These two chemicals seem to provide the longest lasting effects. Bottom line: antiseptic or antibacterial mouth rinses are more effective in the long run that one that just freshens breath.
Grabbing a mint on the way out of a restaurant is strictly a short term fix. Once the flavor is gone the sugar will sit on your teeth and make matters worse. The more effective choice would be sugar free gum or better yet chewing gum sweetened with xylitol.
Dr. Warner was asked by the hosts of the "Dean and Don" show on KMA radio recently about the causes of bad breath. Click to listen to his response.
Tips on Winning the Bad Breath Battle...
Causes of bad breath:
Click the arrow to hear our staffs' comments aboaut their experience using a tongue scraper.