By Dr. Jody Zajacz
February is a month that brings people together, whether it’s snuggling with that someone special on Valentine’s Day or gathering with your relatives on Family Day. But if you suffer from bad breath, the thought of getting close to someone may be cause for concern.
Fortunately, bad breath doesn’t have to keep you from socializing.
It helps to know everyone suffers occasionally from halitosis, or bad breath. About 90 per cent of bad breath stems from bacteria on the tongue, gums and teeth. Bad breath is most commonly caused by certain foods, tobacco or alcohol.
However, if your bad breath is persistent, it could be a sign of something more serious, such as gum disease or dry mouth (also known by its medical term, xerostomia). Visit your dentist if you are concerned about bad breath. During your appointment, tell your dentist what medications you are taking – some may affect saliva production and dry out your mouth. (If your gums and teeth are healthy, your dentist may refer you to your physician or a specialist to determine the cause of your bad breath. It may be a sign of a medical disorder, such as chronic sinusitis or postnasal drip.)
For most of us, bad breath is usually caused by some of the foods we eat and how often we clean our teeth. Saliva cleanses your mouth and removes food particles, thereby inhibiting the growth of bacteria that lead to bad breath.
So when your salivary flow is diminished, usually in the morning before brushing and in-between meals, bad breath is more common.
Here are some tips to help your breath stay fresh:
• Brush your teeth, gums and tongue at least twice a day. Clean as far back on your tongue as you can, where bacteria often collects. If you don’t clean your mouth, any remaining food particles will attract bacteria, which not only cause bad breath, but also contribute to tooth decay.
• Floss at least once a day. Flossing helps removes food particles from hard-to-reach places between the teeth and under the gum line.
• Brush and floss your teeth after eating. If you can’t do this after every meal, drinking water or chewing sugar-free gum are good alternatives as they get your saliva flowing.
• Be sure to see your dentist for regular cleanings and examinations.
• Cigarettes, cigars and chewing tobacco can cause dry mouth and bad breath (along with being harmful to your overall health). Ask your dentist for help with quitting tobacco.
• Dry mouth can be caused by alcohol and breathing with your mouth open. There are also some medications that can dry out your mouth. Drink plenty of water or chew sugar-free gum or candy to keep your mouth moist.
You don’t have to live with bad breath. Your dentist can help identify the cause and, if it’s due to an oral condition, can develop a treatment plan to help eliminate it.
For more information, visit the Ontario Dental Association
Dr. Jody Zajacz is a general dentist practising and living in Toronto and the mother of two young daughters. She is a member of the Ontario Dental Association. The Ontario Dental Association is the voluntary professional organization that represents the dentists of Ontario, supports its members, and is dedicated to the provision of exemplary oral health care and promotes the attainment of optimal health for the people of Ontario.