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Dentistry Memphis

Bad Breath: Causes and Treatment

A woman covering her mouth with her shirtBad breath is a common concern among all demographics of patients, especially when they are spending time with friends or loved ones. In many cases, bad breath is simply embarrassing, leading patients to brush their teeth or seek temporary relief through a breath freshener. If the condition persists, however, it may be due to another, more pressing problem.

If you suffer from persistently bad breath, we encourage you to visit our Memphis office for a more accurate diagnosis of its cause. In the meantime, use the below information as a guide to the common causes of bad breath and the general dentistry treatments for it.

Causes of Bad Breath

Bad breath, medically known as halitosis, can come in a variety of forms. One of the more ordinary and harmless reasons for bad breath is a direct result of having eaten something pungent, such as garlic or onions. In such instances, patients can expect their normal breath to return after waiting a few hours. Not all causes are as innocuous or easily solvable, however. Other factors include:

  • Gum disease: Gum disease is caused by a bacterial infection within gum tissue. As the bacteria grow, they emit sulfuric chemicals as waste, leading to the unpleasant breath that many sufferers of gum disease experience.
  • Dry mouth: When saliva production is low or a person is dehydrated, bacteria and plaque along the gums and teeth tend to grow and spread more quickly. This leads to bad breath, as exemplified by “morning breath,” since saliva production slows during sleep.
  • Lack of hygiene: Failing to brush and floss regularly will allow bacteria to grow in the mouth, resulting in bad breath. If hygiene is continually neglected, gum disease and tooth decay will likely form as well.
  • Diet: If patients abstain from eating carbohydrates, as is common among some diets, the body will burn natural fat deposits in order to obtain calories. This process also releases ketone chemicals, which have a distinctly unpleasant smell and can travel up through the mouth.
  • Disease: Some diseases may result in bad breath as a chronic symptom, including diabetes, respiratory diseases, and fungal infections.
  • Tobacco use: Smoking and chewing tobacco tend to leave their odor in patients’ mouths, particularly after their use. Tobacco also reduces salivation and a patient’s immune system, leading to dry mouth and gum disease. 

Treatment for Bad Breath

Because halitosis can be caused by any one or a combination of the above factors, it is important that patients first discern the source of bad breath. This is most readily accomplished by undergoing a professional dental exam and having an in-depth discussion with your dentist regarding your hygiene, lifestyle, and medical history. Once the cause of bad breath is found, steps can be taken to reduce it or improve the causal factors.

In the event of gum disease, patients may be able to first attempt treatment at-home. For milder cases of gingivitis, at-home hygiene habits are often enough to keep bacteria in check. If infection spreads further into the gums, however, professional treatment may be warranted. Depending on the degree of infection, your dentist may recommend one of two treatment options:

  • Deep cleaning: This procedure is similar to a routine hygienic cleaning, but is targeted at infection below the gum line. Plaque and bacteria are first removed from between the gums and teeth, and antibiotics may be administered beneath the gums to curb future infection. The roots of teeth are then smoothed with a planing tool to discourage the formation of plaque and to aid the gums in reattaching to teeth.
  • Flap surgery: If infection is located far beneath the gums, gum tissue may need to be pulled back before it can be cleaned and treated. This is accomplished through a couple of small incisions in the gums, which are subsequently sutured back into place after treatment. Flap surgery is often necessary for the prevention of serious infection and to keep gum disease from progressing into tooth and bone tissue.

Keep Your Gums Clean and Your Breath Fresh

The best way to preserve a fresh, healthy mouth is to maintain positive hygiene habits at home and through regular visits to your dentist. Even if your breath is not an ongoing problem, it is important to schedule routine cleanings and exams to aid in the prevention of disease and decay. Contact us to make your next appointment with Dr. Messer

Tagged In: Bad Breath, Tooth Decay, Gum Disease

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I have been to several dentists in the Memphis Area and I have finally found THE ONE!! Dr. Messer is the best dentist I have ever been to. I have complete confidence in any procedure that he performs and I can't imagine ever going to any other dentist.

-Meredith Page B.
Memphis, TN

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