Bad breath can be a major concern in social and professional interactions. The smell of your breath can have a major impact on not just how people perceive you, but whether they want to be with you at all.
Some bad breath comes and goes depending on the day. You might have bad breath after eating a plate of garlic shrimp, but it doesn’t last. You might brush your teeth or rinse your mouth out, and then it’s gone. However, other times bad breath doesn’t come and go. It sticks around, and all the normal steps people take to control it–gum, mints, mouthwash, brushing–provide only temporary relief if any at all.
If that’s the case, you need to see a dentist to have your oral health evaluated. It’s likely that the cause is a serious mouth infection, which could become a major threat to your overall health, even to your life.
The Cause of Persistent Bad Breath
Bad breath means that you have a source of stinky molecules in your mouth. These molecules, often sulfur compounds, can come from sources like the foods you eat. Food residue in the mouth can emit these molecules, which then get carried out of your mouth when you breathe. To get rid of this source of smell, you need to get rid of the food residue, maybe by brushing your teeth or rinsing your mouth.
But persistent bad breath is often related to certain bacteria that live in the mouth. Many oral bacteria use oxygen the way we do, to help process food. But other bacteria don’t–they use sulfur to digest their food. And when they do, they produce a lot of sulfur compounds. That’s why they can cause you to have bad breath all the time: no matter what you eat, they can turn it into stinky gasses.
But these bacteria don’t just not use oxygen–it’s toxic to them, so they like to hide in areas where oxygen can’t get to them. And some of these hiding places are signs that your oral health is not good.
Gum Disease and Bad Breath
One place that oxygen-fearing microbes can hide is between your teeth and gums. Of course, when they’re healthy, your gums are tightly connected to your teeth, with only small pockets around the teeth. However, when bacteria infect these pockets, they can damage the gums, teeth, and bones, to enlarge them. This creates the perfect shelter for bacteria that don’t like oxygen, and they can thrive there. The more they grow, the worse your breath will get.
Gum disease symptoms aren’t highly visible, but if you have bad breath, look for:
- Blood when you brush or floss
- Tender gums
- Red, swollen gums
- Receding gums (your teeth seem to be getting longer)
- Tooth sensitivity
- Tooth movement
Many people think that it’s normal to see blood when you brush or floss, but it’s not–it’s a sign that you have significant gum disease. Gum disease doesn’t make your gums hurt, but it can make them sensitive–they’re more likely to hurt when you eat or brush. Swollen gums and receding gums can each make the other less visible, but watch for them. If your teeth have started to be more sensitive to hot and cold liquids, or if you notice them moving, it’s likely that you have gum disease.
It’s important to treat gum disease quickly. Not only can it cause you to lose teeth, it can contribute to your risk of heart conditions, dementia, and even cancer.
Another place where oxygen-fearing bacteria like to hide is inside your tooth. Thankfully, your tooth should be sealed against them. But if you experience tooth decay (cavities) that grow large enough, they can reach the interior chamber of the tooth. There, sulfur-breathing bacteria can grow, killing and crowding out the living part of your tooth.
Symptoms of an infected tooth include:
- Serious tooth pain (sometimes spontaneous, often in response to pressure or temperature)
- Discolored tooth
- Swollen, pimple-like area on the gums
- Pus oozing from the gums or tooth
Most people think that an infected tooth has to be painful, but it doesn’t. While severe pain is often linked to an infected tooth, if a tooth is draining, it might not hurt as much. Since tooth drainage is linked to bad breath or a foul taste in the mouth, it’s like your infected tooth won’t hurt too much.
The tooth can become discolored as the bacteria replace the living part of the tooth. As the bacteria spread, they can cause sores around the infected tooth.
An infected tooth is linked to heart problems similar to gum disease, but the infection can also spread rapidly to other parts of the body, such as the brain, lungs, or blood, which can become a life-threatening situation.
Infected teeth are treated with root canal therapy.
Let Us Address Your bad Breath
If you’ve been suffering with persistent bad breath, we can help. At your checkup, we can track down the exact cause and recommend treatments that will resolve your bad breath and restore your oral health.