Friday, April 29, 2016

What Actually Causes Bad Breath?

An estimated 65 percent of the American population suffers from halitosis, or bad breath, according to research from the Washtenaw District Dental Society. That's more than half of the country! With so many people afflicted with this unfortunate condition, it makes you wonder just how bad breath comes to be, and why - even when you think you've eliminated the problem - it can easily come back.

According to dental hygiene experts, halitosis is caused by bacterial activity in the mouth.

"Bacteria in your mouth feed off mucus, food remnants and dead tissue cells," says professor Mel Rosenberg in a TED-Ed video. "In order to absorb nutrients through their cell membranes they must break down the organic matter into much smaller molecules. For example, they'll break proteins into their component amino acids and then break those down even further into various compounds. Some of the foul-smelling byproducts of these reactions, such as hydrogen sulfide and cadaverine, escape into the air."

Pretty disgusting, huh?

To avoid this bacterial activity, practice good oral hygiene and practice it often! That means brushing your teeth after each meal, flossing at least once a day, and making regular trips to see your dentist for professional cleanings.

Can't I just rinse with minty mouthwash?

Sure, mouthwash may kill some bacteria and freshen your breath - but it's really just a temporary solution. In fact, some research has suggested that using mouthwash may actually make bad breath worse!

According to a study in the Journal of Clinical Dentistry, swigging with an antiseptic mouthwash twice a day reduced the buildup of plaque and reduced gingivitis over the course of six months. However, some experts believe that if used incorrectly, mouthwash may reduce the benefits of brushing with toothpaste, which could lead to bad breath being worse than if the person had just stuck to brushing.

"Sometimes there can be an interaction between the chemicals in the toothpaste and chemicals in the mouthwash and this means they cancel out the benefits of each other," says Dr. Phil Stemmer. a dentist based in London.

To avoid this, Dr. Stemmer recommends leaving at least an hour between brushing and using mouthwash.

Other mistakes people make with their mouthwash:

Not swishing long enough. Most mouthwashes recommend swishing for one minute in order to give the ingredients time to really work.

Not buying a mouthwash with fluoride. Fluoride strengthens teeth, which is why it is usually an essential ingredient in toothpaste.

Not buying a mouthwash that kills bacteria. Mouthwashes that do not contain bacteria-killing ingredients will not be effective in keeping bad breath away for good, because they aren't getting to the root of the problem.

Could bad breath be caused by other health conditions?

As a final note, if you find that you are continuing to have bad breath despite practicing good dental hygiene, discuss it with your dentist. Bad breath can sometimes be a sign of other dental/health issues or a side effect of certain medications.

Looking for a dentist serving the Raleigh area? Dr. Simon Melcher with Implant & General Dentistry offers exceptional, personalized dental care to patients throughout Raleigh.

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