Halitosis (bad breath) is a major personal and social concern — so much so that Americans spend nearly $3 billion annually on rinses, mints and gum to freshen breath. While helpful in alleviating occasional bad breath caused by oral dryness (brought on by stress, eating certain foods, prescription medications, smoking or consuming alcohol), those with chronic halitosis require a much different treatment approach.
That's because there are a number of possible causes for chronic halitosis, among them: xerostomia (chronic dry mouth), caused by mouth breathing; periodontal (gum) disease; or candidiasis, a yeast infection caused by some antibiotics. It may also arise as a secondary symptom of systemic diseases like liver disease, diabetes or cancer.
The most common cause, though, is bacteria. Many types of oral bacteria can produce terrible odors, most notably volatile sulphur compounds (VSCs) with their “rotten egg” smell. Because of its relative dryness and difficulty in cleaning, the back of the tongue is a wonderful environment for bacteria to multiply and thrive.
If you suffer from chronic halitosis, our primary objective then is to try to uncover its specific cause, which will determine what course of treatment we would recommend. First, what is your experience with halitosis — have others noticed it or just you? Next, we would consider your medical history — have you had any health issues with your ears, nose or throat, or experienced any gastrointestinal disorders or lung problems? What kind of medications do you take, and are your kidneys and liver functioning properly? We would also perform a thorough dental exam for any signs of tooth decay, gum disease or a dry, coated tongue as well as look at your diet and lifestyle choices, like smoking or alcohol use.
Having a better idea of what may be causing your bad breath, we can then tailor a treatment plan that might involve, among other things, treatment for tooth decay, a periodontal cleaning (scaling), instruction on better oral hygiene and tongue cleaning with a scraper or brush, or the removal of third molars where debris may be accumulating in the gum flaps.
Finding the cause of bad breath can take time, but is well worth the effort. The end result is a treatment plan that works.
If you would like more information on understanding and treating chronic halitosis, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Bad Breath: More than just embarrassing.”