Halitosis, or bad breath, is extremely common but quite embarrassing. Most cases, such as “morning breath” are short-lived and easy to treat with excellent oral hygiene. For stubborn bad breath that cannot be fixed with brushing, flossing, and mouthwash, it is important to see the dentist as soon as possible.
Common Causes of Chronic Bad Breath
Many factors can contribute to chronic bad breath. These include:
Gum disease: Most adults have at least mild gum disease, making it easy for food debris to get trapped in the pockets around the teeth. As this trapped debris decays, it will begin to smell.
Cavities and cracked fillings: Cavities and cracked fillings leave a hole in the tooth for food particles and bacteria to enter. These particles will decay, leading to unpleasant odors.
Poorly fitted dentures: Dentures that are poorly fitted or are not properly cleaned can cause food to get trapped between the gums and the dentures, leading to decay and chronic bad breath.
Dry mouth: Saliva naturally cleans the mouth, keeping the breath fresh throughout the day. Many people do not produce enough saliva, though, which can cause odors to develop. Chronic dry mouth is caused by many medications as well as issues with the salivary glands.
Occasionally, chronic bad breath is a symptom of physical illness. If your dentist rules out all of the above causes, you may need to be checked for certain diseases:
- Chronic acid reflux
- Kidney disease
- Liver disease
- Oral yeast infection
- Respiratory tract infection such as bronchitis
- Sinus infection
Treating Chronic Bad Breath
Since chronic bad breath is a symptom rather than a separate condition, treating the cause will also alleviate the bad breath. Depending on what is found, you may need gum disease treatment, an antibiotic, a filling, a medication change, a denture adjustment, or some other action.
Integrative medicine is a modern approach to treatment that brings multiple specialists together to treat a problem. If you have chronic bad breath due to a physical illness, your doctor and dentist may work together to treat both the disease and the symptom.
Preventing Bad Breath
Prevention is always the best solution, so make a new commitment to your oral health. Brush and floss your teeth twice every day, and have a professional cleaning twice per year. Have any needed dental work done, and commit to dealing with future problems as soon as they arise.
Chronic bad breath can be frustrating and embarrassing, but most of the time, it is easy to treat. Seeing your dentist as soon as possible is the best way to restore your mouth to a healthy, fresh state.