John C. Chao, D.D.S.

Research Associate Professor, University at Buffalo, SUNY
Adjunct Assistant Professor, Ostrow School of Dentistry, USC

(626) 308-9104

News & Press

How Do You Tell Your Best Friend About Bad Breath?

Does best friend or relative have bad breath (halitosis) and you wish you could find some tactful way to tell him or her? One of the best ways is to say good things about your dentist and get your friend there. Let the dentist do the rest. There are many ways an experienced dentist can bring this subject up in a way that would motivate rather than offend the patient. But what causes halitosis?

Everyone knows garlic and onions are examples of food that contribute to this problem. When these foods are absorbed into the blood stream, they are transferred to the lungs. When the breath is exhaled, odor is detected. Brushing, flossing and mouth rinsing can temporarily disguise the odor. But it will be only temporary. This odor will stay until the body eliminates the food altogether.

Of course if you don't brush and floss daily, particles of food that are collect between the teeth, on the tongue and around the gums can rot and produce bad breath.

Dry mouth (xerostomia) can lead to bad breath. Saliva brings vital nutrients to oral tissues and has anti-bacterial characteristics that keep growth of bacteria in check. Lack of saliva can lead to inflammation and discomfort to the cheeks, tongue and gums. Furthermore, lack of saliva leads to overgrowth of saliva, which leads to bad breath. If you suffer from this condition, be sure to see your dentist or your physician for a definitive diagnosis first. Your doctor may suggest you use artificial saliva or other means to relieve symptoms.

Tobacco use is a major factor in bad breath. Your dentist may be able help you overcome the habit. Your dentist may be able to support you in the monumental task by helpful suggestions and moral support. Personally, this columnist has seen many patients overcome the smoking habit as a result of a commitment to saving their teeth. If you have periodontitis, you are eleven times more likely to lose your teeth than the non-smoker. Besides it will get rid of your bad breath.

Medical conditions, such as a local infection in the respiratory tract, chronic sinusitis, postnasal drip, chronic bronchitis, diabetes, gastrointestinal disturbance, liver or kidney ailment can lead to dry mouth. If your dentist determines that your mouth is healthy, you may be referred to your family doctor or a specialist to determine the cause of bad breath.

So if you or your friend wants to solve the bad breath problem, schedule regular dental visits for a professional cleaning and checkup. If you think you have constant bad breath, keep a log of the foods you eat and make a list of medications you take. Some medications may play a role in creating mouth odors. Let your dentist know if you've had any surgery or illness since your last appointment.

Brushing your teeth and flossing your teeth regularly is certainly helpful in controlling bad breath. Don't forget to scrape or brush your tongue, especially the back of it. That is where bacteria can grow in abundance. You will be surprised how fresh you will feel when you clean your tongue regularly. You can purchase a special tongue scraper from the local drugstore, or ask your dentist what she or he recommends.

Mouth washes or chewing gum are sometimes effective for a time in masking bad breath. However if you need to use them regularly, you should consult with your dentist or physician.

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