November 21, 2003
Contact PDA: (717) 234-5941
PDA Urges You to Take Bad Breath Seriously
Chronic bad breath, or halitosis, is not just an embarrassing annoyance. Commonly caused by the presence of oral bacteria, halitosis is a condition that can affect your relationships with family, friends and coworkers. Mints, mouthwashes and gums cannot treat chronic bad breath; they can only temporarily mask the odor.
Through a process called acclimation, your body filters out background smells, like body and breath odor, so you can smell other scents. Acclimation makes it possible for a person suffering from halitosis to not even know it. The best way to find out if you have bad breath is to ask a trusted family member or friend to tell you the truth about your breath.
If you want to avoid the embarrassment of having to ask someone, lick your clean wrist, wait a few seconds and smell. This quick test will provide you with a general idea of your breath odor. If you think you suffer from chronic bad breath but you are not sure of the cause, PDA recommends that you talk to your dentist at your next check-up. He or she can determine if your bad breath is a result of an unhealthy mouth and can provide treatment options.
Often, bad breath is attributable to poor oral hygiene. If you neglect to brush and floss daily, food particles will collect between the teeth, on the tongue and around the gums, turning your mouth into a breeding ground for odor-causing bacteria. Simply brushing and flossing your teeth daily can significantly reduce the amount of bacteria in your mouth and the odor they produce.
Chronic bad breath is a common symptom of periodontal disease, a bacterial infection of your gums caused by the accumulation of plaque. A sticky, colorless film of bacteria, plaque constantly forms on teeth. If you fail to remove plaque daily by brushing and flossing your teeth, the bacteria will cause the gums to pull away from the teeth. Over time gum disease can result in tooth loss.
Bad breath also may be caused by tobacco use, diet and chronic dry mouth. Dry mouth, called xerostomia (ZEER-oh-STOH-mee-ah), is a condition where saliva flow decreases. Saliva is the body's natural mouth rinse that washes and dilutes odor-causing bacteria from the mouth.
Sometimes bad breath signals the presence of other medical conditions, like respiratory tract infections, chronic sinusitis, postnasal drip, diabetes, gastrointestinal disturbance and liver or kidney ailments. If your bad breath persists even after your dentist determined your mouth is healthy, he or she may refer you to your family doctor to determine the cause of your halitosis.
The more you know, the better dental care you'll receive.View more information about bad breath.
About the Pennsylvania
Founded in 1868, the Pennsylvania Dental Association (PDA) is comprised of approximately 6,000 member dentists. It is a constituency of the American Dental Association (ADA), the largest and oldest national dental society in the world. PDA’s mission is to improve the public health, promote the art and science of dentistry and represent the interests of its member dentists and their patients. PDA is the voice of dentistry in Pennsylvania. Learn more about PDA.