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Bad Breath Q & A

Are people avoiding face-to-face contact with you? Chances are, your breath is sending an offensive message. Here are some important facts everyone should know about bad breath — and how to make it go away.

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Bad Breath Q & A

Does bad breath come from the foods we eat?

While onions and garlic may leave behind an offensive odor, this is only temporary. There are no foods that can be directly contributed to the lingering bad breath that plagues nearly 40 million people. This condition and distinct malodor are linked to elevated levels of anaerobic, sulfur-producing bacteria called volatile sulfur compounds (VSCs), which typically accumulate on the rough surface on the back of the tongue, according to the American Dental Association (ADA). So, continue to enjoy your spicy and flavorful foods … just brush thoroughly afterward!

Then what causes bad breath?

As mentioned, it’s the odor-producing bacteria that grow in the mouth. When you don’t brush and floss regularly, bacteria accumulate on the bits of food left in your mouth and between your teeth. The sulfur compounds released by these bacteria make your breath smell.

Can I tell if I have bad breath?

Ah, wouldn't that be a relief? Not so fast, though. Medical research indicates we have an inability to smell our own oral malodor. This is attributed to adaptation and dulling of sensation due to continual exposure.

Does bad breath originate in the stomach?

Only on very rare occasions does bad breath result from stomach and/or digestive problems, according to the ADA. Studies show that nearly 85 percent of malodor originates in the mouth. Those anaerobic, sulfur-producing bacteria find their way in the crevices of the soft and hard oral tissues.

If I brush my teeth will I be able to eliminate bad breath?

Unfortunately, brushing alone is not effective in eliminating the bacteria that is responsible for oral malodor. While good oral hygiene is very important for managing bacteria accumulation, the daily regimen for thorough cleansing should include proper tooth brushing, flossing and deep tongue cleaning, according to the American Dental Hygienists’ Association.

Will mouthwash and breath mints control my bad breath?

While there are many claims being made about these products, the majority are ineffective and can actually worsen the condition. Many mouthrinses and mints may work for only a few minutes at best by masking odor with strong flavorings. And the alcohol content in most mouthrinses (up to 27 percent) causes drying of the tissues in the mouth, allowing the odor-causing bacteria to flourish. According to the Academy of Dental Therapeutics and Stomatology (AADTS), alcohol mouthrinses should be avoided for this reason. Using a mouthrinse that is alcohol-free and contains an effective ingredient to neutralize the odor-causing bacteria will produce the safest and most desired result.

Is bad breath caused by a lack of brushing and flossing?

Even with meticulous brushing and flossing, bad breath may still linger for some individuals. Excellent oral hygiene is essential for reducing the amount of bacteria, plaque, dead cells and food debris that accumulate on the surfaces of the teeth and gum tissues. All of these are largely responsible for oral odors and disease. However, there are other factors, many times overlooked, that contribute to chronic malodor, according to the ADA. Dry mouth can be a major culprit to bad breath and can be caused by several factors, including the use of alcohol-based mouthrinses and harsh oral care products.

Will toothpaste eliminate bad breath?

Many commercial-brand toothpastes contain strong artificial flavorings that can very often illicit a mild to intense burning sensation, giving it a “fresh” feeling and providing a temporary cover-up for odorous bacteria. Simply because it feels strong in the mouth does not necessarily mean it is killing the bacteria responsible for bad breath. There are toothpastes that contain ingredients that actually neutralize VSCs. According to the AADTS, when VSCs are neutralized, the bacteria becomes ineffective and longer-lasting fresh breath is achieved — safely, effectively and without the burn!

Can dry mouth cause bad breath?

Left untreated, chronic dry mouth will undoubtedly lead to a significant increase in overall bacteria accumulation in the mouth. This increase in bacteria can lead to a serious risk of cavities throughout the mouth, bad breath, gingivitis, gum disease, as well as viral and fungal infections, according to the ADA. Because dry mouth can be the symptom of an underlying systemic disease, it should not be ignored.

Will tongue cleaning help eliminate bad breath?

Thorough tongue cleaning is a critical component in the cleansing process. “Scientific studies have shown that, in 85 percent of the cases, bad breath emanates from a small area at the back of the tongue,” said Sushma Nachnani, a breath expert with University Health Resources in Beverly Hills who calls daily tongue cleaning a key to expunging odor. The tongue harbors harmful bacteria that coats the surface and can be largely responsible for bad breath. And, don’t forget to floss! Bacteria left behind in the pocket between the tooth and the gum tissue can lead to inflammation, buildup of deposits and increased risk of gum disease.

Will smoking cause bad breath?

Smoking dries the oral tissues of the mouth, reducing the availability of saliva and all the benefits saliva provides for the teeth and tissues. This delays healing in the tissues, stains the teeth and dental work, and increases bad breath.

Are some mouthrinses more effective at eliminating bad breath?

Unfortunately, most mouthrinses only contain strong flavorings that may mask bad breath temporarily and do not address the source. Also, mouthrinses that contain alcohol may dry the tissues and mouth, encouraging more odor-causing bacteria to accumulate, thereby worsening the condition, according to the AADTS. The truth is, only specialized mouthrinses that contain an effective ingredient to neutralize odor-causing bacteria will produce the best results in eliminating breath concerns.