Marco Island Dentist Details Primary Causes of Halitosis and How to Resolve It
If someone were to tell you that you have “fetor oris,” you’d probably react by saying, “What?” On the other hand, if someone tells you that you have “halitosis,” you’d probably understand what they are saying but perhaps not know how to respond to the somewhat embarrassing declaration. If you’re not familiar with either term, know that both refer to bad breath, which is certainly something that no one wants to have but that everyone experiences on occasion.
As an occasional minor condition, bad breath is typically caused by the food and drinks we’ve consumed, temporary dry mouth, and/or forgetting to brush and floss. A random episode of bad breath—or occasional morning breath—is easily cleared up by brushing, flossing, and mouthwash.
However, when halitosis persists despite such measures or is a chronic or especially malodorous condition, you should probably see a dentist who can determine the underlying cause to help find a resolution.
With a focus on functional and cosmetic dentistry, Dr. Jonathan Van Dyke of Southwest Florida’s Island Tower Dentistry is intimately familiar with all dynamics that can cause halitosis and have expertise in helping patients address their bad breath, no matter the cause. Read on to learn more about what may be causing your halitosis and how to treat it.
What Causes Bad Breath?
Whether periodic or chronic, most halitosis cases arise in the mouth—intraoral—due to a buildup of volatile sulfur compounds produced by the bacteria in our mouths. While most oral bacteria play a beneficial role in oral and overall health, some bacterial species cause cavities and gum disease if allowed to proliferate. They also produce excessive amounts of VSCs, such as hydrogen sulfide, which smells like rotten eggs, and methyl mercaptan, which smells like sour cabbage. The buildup of these odors within the mouth is then dispersed into the air when you breathe and speak.
Extraoral halitosis is characterized by factors outside the mouth that produce odors that work their way through your body to your mouth and are released as bad breath. Some infections, diseases, and medications are directly linked to extraoral halitosis. While diet would seem to be an intraoral cause of halitosis, some foods like garlic and onions contain VSCs and other odorous compounds that enter our bloodstream via the digestive system and are then released as a gaseous odor from the breath out of our lungs. Thus, the dental field characterizes such halitosis as extraoral.
Common Intraoral Halitosis Causes
Gum disease and plaque buildup are among the most common causes of chronic intraoral halitosis. In fact, if your breath becomes chronically bad no matter how much you brush and floss, it may be a symptom of gum disease that you should have checked out by your dentist. Other primary intraoral halitosis causes include:
- Tooth Decay—if you have a cavity, you can be sure that it smells terrible; the worse the decay, the more odorous it will become.
- Tongue Coating—Harmful VSC-producing bacteria always look for a perfect place to hide, and tiny, hair-like projections on the tongue provide a perfect location for bacterial colonization. Over time, the harmful bacterial growth can become significant enough to produce a coating on the tongue, emitting substantial amounts of VSCs.
- Tonsil Stones—Harmful bacteria also thrive on the tonsils, eventually producing a biofilm that hardens into an odorous substance called tonsilloliths, or tonsil stones.
- Dry Mouth— your saliva helps keep beneficial bacteria healthy and controls harmful bacteria levels. No matter the underlying cause, those with decreased saliva production are more prone to harmful bacteria buildup and subsequent increases in bad-breath-producing VSCs.
Common Extraoral Causes of Halitosis
The biological and chemical mechanisms that cause extraoral halitosis are not as clearly understood as the factors that cause intraoral halitosis. However, there are distinct links between certain infections, diseases, and medications. With medications, the link is attributed to causing dry mouth and/or the release of odorous chemicals through the lungs, while some diseases and infections produce chemicals that cause a distinctive breath odor. Potential extraoral causes include:
- Acid Reflux Disease
- Some Cancers
- Metabolic Disorders
- Respiratory Diseases
- Liver Disease
- Kidney Disease
- H. Pylori Infection
- Assorted Medications
Common Treatments for Halitosis
While effective halitosis treatment depends on the underlying cause, diligent oral hygiene is always the best first-line defense. Regular brushing, flossing, and professional cleaning go a long way in tamping down harmful, VCS-producing bacteria and curtailing halitosis-inducing problems before they start.
Anyone already struggling with chronic halitosis should seek professional advice from their dentist. Not only can they uncover and treat any potential underlying oral health issue, but they can also address other halitosis causes. Possible remedies include:
- Tongue cleaning/scraping
- Saliva-producing medications
- Dietary changes
- Specialized mouthwashes
- Oral probiotics
Consult with Island Tower Dentistry on Your Halitosis
If you’re struggling with chronic halitosis, despite diligent oral hygiene efforts, consult with the dental professionals at Island Tower Dentistry for an assessment to uncover any underlying causes. Offering the full range of dental services in the Marco Island, Florida, area, contact Island Tower Dentistry today at 239-394-1004.