Kissable You - Beating Bad Breath
Bad breath isn’t just what happens after you eat garlic. Chronic bad breath is actually a condition called halitosis, and to manage it successfully requires more than gargling some mouthwash every now and then.
What Causes Bad Breath?
Knowing the cause of bad breath can help you better manage the issue by going straight to the source. It be caused by several factors:
Plaque - Plaque is a thin, sticky, invisible film. It builds up on the surfaces of your teeth. Under the microscope it is a mesh of food debris, dead cells and thousands of bacteria. As the bacteria digests the food debris it produces acids that dissolve the protective enamel of your teeth, causing decay. Some of the bacteria seeps between your gums, causing inflammation and gum disease (gingivitis) which destroys the fibres and bones that hold your teeth in place.
Certain foods – Everyone is familiar with the feeling of eating a strong-flavored food and having to deal with the lingering after-taste. Some food contains sulfur compounds similar to those produced by halitosis-causing bacteria, like garlic and onions. Other foods contain compounds that react with sulfur compounds, like dairy.
Dry mouth – Saliva helps wash food particles from the mouth. Saliva also dilutes the acid that causes tooth decay, helps break down any remaining food particles and contains antibodies that help fight decay. Sometimes you just wake up with a dry mouth in the morning, but diabetes, smoking, alcohol consumption and certain medications can also contribute.
Sickness – Mucus and post-nasal drip contain proteins that feed bad breath-causing bacteria, which is why many people have more bad breath issues when they are sick.
Managing Halitosis (Chronic Bad Breath)
You can try to avoid getting sick, but you can't just stop eating. Here are several practical ways you can avoid bad breath and go straight to the source to prevent those bacteria from thriving in your mouth.
The most important thing you can do is drink a lot of water. Water helps wash out the mouth and encourages saliva flow without adding sugars or other bacteria-promoting elements. This means that soda, juice and milk will not accomplish the same goal of preventing bad breath – drinking water is important! Also, don't eat or drink anything other than water after you brush your teeth at night, because your saliva slows down when you're asleep, providing the perfect dry environment for bacteria to flourish.
Everyone knows you're supposed to brush your teeth at least twice a day, but people often don't think about brushing their tongue. The back of your tongue (where people rarely brush) is like a breeding ground for bacteria, because food tends to sit there untouched. Whenever you brush your teeth, stick your tongue out, reach your toothbrush as far back as you can comfortably go, and scrub for at least an extra 15-20 seconds. Be sure to gargle some water at the back of your throat when you rinse your mouth to make sure your tongue is clean. Flossing also does more than just prevent cavities, which is important enough in itself. It also gets rid of any rotting food particles trapped between your teeth that could release a putrid odor.
If you need a quick fix, chew gum sweetened with xylitol, a compound found to actually improve oral health. Xylitol helps prevent plaque and strengthens tooth enamel. The act of chewing gum stimulates saliva production as well. However, if you consider what may be causing your bad breath, it will be easier to determine a successful strategy to manage or even eliminate it.
Hannah Daniel enjoys providing the Careington dental plan to small businesses and individuals and helping them save money on oral health. She also manages a health and dental news blog backed by 1Dental.com.
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