Bad breath, or halitosis, can be caused by many things. It may be the result of odor-causing foods, tooth decay, periodontal (gum) disease, continued mouth dryness, use of tobacco products, sinus or respiratory infections, some medical disorders, inadequate oral hygiene or some medications. Your dentist can help identify the cause and, if it's due to an oral condition, can develop a treatment plan to eliminate this common source of embarrassment.
What you eat affects the air you exhale. Certain foods, such as garlic and onions, contribute to objectionable breath odor. Once the food is absorbed into the bloodstream, it is transferred to the lungs, where it is expelled. Brushing, flossing and mouthwash will only mask the odor temporarily. Odors continue until the body eliminates the food. Dieters may develop unpleasant breath from infrequent eating.
If you do not brush and floss daily, particles of food remain in the mouth, collecting bacteria, which can cause bad breath. Food that collects between the teeth, on the tongue and around the gums can rot, leaving an unpleasant odor. Dentures that are not cleaned properly can also harbor odor-causing bacteria and food particles.
One of the warning signs of periodontal (gum) disease is persistent bad breath or a bad taste in the mouth. Periodontal disease is caused by plaque, the sticky, colorless film of bacteria that constantly forms on teeth. The bacteria create toxins that irritate the gums. In the advanced stage of the disease, that gums, bone and other structures that support the teeth become damaged. With regular dental checkups, your dentist can detect and treat periodontal disease early.
Bad breath is also caused by dry mouth (xerostomia), which occurs when the flow of saliva decreases. Saliva is necessary to cleanse the mouth and remove particles that may cause odor. Dry mouth may be caused by various medications, salivary gland problems or continuously breathing through the mouth. If you suffer from dry mouth, your dentist may prescribe an artificial saliva, or suggest using sugarless candy and increasing your fluid intake.
Tobacco products cause bad breath, stain teeth, reduce one's ability to taste foods and irritate gum tissues. Tobacco users are more likely to suffer from periodontal disease and are at greater risk for developing oral cancer. If you use tobacco, ask your dentist for tips on kicking the habit.
Bad breath may be the sign of a medical disorder, such as a local infection in the respiratory tract (nose, throat windpipe, lungs), chronic sinusitis, postnasal drip, chronic bronchitis, diabetes, gastrointestinal disturbance, liver or kidney ailment. If your dentist determines that your mouth is healthy, you may be referred to your family doctor or a specialist to determine the cause of bad breath.
Eliminating periodontal disease and maintaining good oral health is essential to reducing bad breath. Schedule regular dental visits for a professional cleaning and checkup. If you think you have constant bad breath, keep a log of the foods you eat and make a list of medications you take. Some medications may play a role in creating mouth odors. Let your dentist know if you've had any surgery or illness since your last appointment.
Brush twice a day with fluoride toothpaste to remove food debris and plaque. Brush your tongue, too. Once a day, use floss or an interdental cleaner to clean between teeth. If you wear removable dentures, take them out at night. Clean them thoroughly before replacing them the next morning.
Mouthwashes are generally cosmetic and do not have a long lasting effect on bad breath. If you must constantly use a breath freshener to hide unpleasant mouth odor, see your dentist. If you need extra help in controlling plaque, your dentist may recommend using a special antimicrobial mouth rinse. A fluoride mouth rinse, used along with brushing and flossing, can help prevent tooth decay. Look for products that carry the American Dental Association Seal of Acceptance. Products that display the seal have undergone strict testing for safety and effectiveness.
Tooth sensitivity is a common problem for most people. Our teeth can be greatly affected by hot, cold, sweet, and sour food or drink. Over-enthusiastic brushing, recession of gums, gum disease (periodontitis) all can expose the soft, porous structure of the tooth (dentin), making it susceptible to external stimuli.
Pain can be mild and tingly or sharp and intense. This symptom sometimes is a sign for more serious diseases. Whenever you are suffering from pain of sensitivity, you should go see your dentist before it persists or worsens.
Pain signal enters tubule through exposed dentin and excites the nerve.
A review of brushing techniques and diet can help reveal causes of sensitivity. Avoid over-brushing because it can cause damage to your teeth and/or gums. Sensitivity protection toothpaste works by blocking the opening of the exposed dentin or by preventing the transfer of the pain signal from the nerve to the brain.
You should feel relief by using sensitivity protection toothpaste for two weeks. If you stop brushing with this kind of toothpaste, the sensitivity pain may return.
Also, some prescribed desensitizing agents may help you. Consult your dentist about it.
Bruxism is the technical term for forcible grinding and clenching of the teeth. It usually happens at night, during sleep, although some people grind their teeth during the day as well.
Most people who grind their teeth are over 25 years old, and the disorder affects women and men about equally. Children also grind their teeth, but usually in response to discomfort caused by colds, ear infections or allergies. Most cases of bruxism in children resolve on their own without causing tooth damage or other problems.
Bruxism can have a variety of causes, but the most common are probably emotional factors such as daytime stress, anxiety, anger, pain and frustration. Certain sleep disorders can trigger grinding of the teeth as well. People who are competitive, aggressive, and rushed may also be at greater risk for bruxism. Lastly, alcohol and some types of medications may worsen tooth grinding.
When you chew your food, you deliver a force of about 175 pounds per square inch (psi) to your teeth. But when you grind your teeth at night, there's no food to absorb the impact, so the force on your teeth can be 300 psi or more. That's enough to cause permanent damage to your teeth, including cracked and chipped enamel, hairline fractures, and even wearing down of the teeth to the gum line & loosening of the dental implant screws. The enamel may become so worn that the inside of the tooth (called the dentin) is exposed.
If bruxism isn't treated, it can lead to gum damage, loss of both natural teeth and restorations, and other more complicated jaw-related disorders (such as TMJ known disorders). Over time, your teeth may become sensitive due to exposed dentin, and your jaws may even move out of proper balance. Grinding your teeth can also cause a wide variety of other symptoms including soreness and fatigue in your jaw and facial muscles, and earaches or headaches-especially when you wake up in the morning. There is no known cure for bruxism. Fortunately, with night-guard trays there are ways to reduce or stop your grinding and even ways to limit further damage and pain due to grinding.
Because most bruxism happens at night, most sufferers aren't even aware of it until a sleep partner mentions the noise or until a dentist notices that their teeth are damaged. Here are some typical symptoms that may indicate nighttime teeth grinding:
If you think you might be grinding your teeth at night, the first thing to do is visit your dentist to assess any possible damage. It's essential to halt the course of the disease to prevent or arrest damage to your teeth, gums, and jaws.
You may spend most of your life unaware of the important little triangular-shaped joints located in front of your ears. Lined with cartilage, these joints move with a smooth, gliding motion. Under normal conditions, they join your lower jaw and temporal bone, allowing your mouth to open and close easily. However, stress or an improper bite can cause the joints to dysfunction, exposing nerve endings to create pain. In fact, the temporomandibular joint is highly sensitive to overall physical, emotional, and psychological stress. It is affected by the mechanics of your bite and the condition of your jaw muscles. A little extra stress, a little extra fatigue, a little change in your bite, and you may temporarily knock the whole system out of balance. The resulting TMJ disorder, or TMD, can create a variety of mild to severe symptoms, from jaw clicking and minor discomfort to sharp pain in your temple, ear, neck, and shoulders.
The condition is very common in our culture, so we evaluate every patient for TMJ dysfunction at their regular dental exam. If we detect a problem, our goals are to arrest it, protect teeth from further damage, and correct underlying bite misalignment. Therapy may involve fitting you with a physiologic bite appliance, suggesting ways to alleviate stress, and recommending symptom relief measures. Typically, TMJ patients need to avoid chewing gum or hard, chewy food, take small bites, and alternate chewing between both sides of the mouth. Good nutrition will help the joint heal more quickly; good posture will also help relieve discomfort. A straight back, relaxed neck, and side-sleeping position are also helpful. To relieve soreness, light temple and jaw massage will stimulate circulation and relax the muscles. If pain is present, we suggest alternating moist heat and cold for 20 minutes to further increase circulation. Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory or analgesics can be very helpful as well.