Bad breath is a common experience. All of us have bad breath from time to time. It can make us self-conscious in social situations and interfere with our ability to create and maintain good relationships with others. Otherwise, it’s not usually a serious problem. 

However, bad breath can be a sign of severe oral health problems for some of us. Here’s how to identify less serious causes of bad breath and distinguish them from those that need attention from your dentist. 

embarrassed woman wearing a turtleneck sweater covers her mouthIdentifying Non-Serious Bad Breath

If you have bad breath, it’s common for you and others to jump to conclusions, assuming there might be a more severe problem. However, take some time to consider these possibilities before starting to worry about your bad breath. 

Was It Your Recent Meal?

One of the most common causes of bad breath is something you just ate. Garlic, onions, and other strong-smelling foods can leave residue in your mouth. This residue continues giving off odors that can accumulate in your mouth. 

You can temporarily mask this type of bad breath with mints or mouthwash. However, the best solution is to clean your mouth after a meal. You can brush your teeth, but consider brushing without toothpaste. Toothpaste can be abrasive, so it’s best not to use it too much. Chewing sugar-free gum is also an excellent way to clean food residue and bacteria from your teeth, though chewing gum too often can aggravate temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJ/TMD)

Is It Your Diet?

Other times, it’s not what you just ate, but the total of what you eat that causes bad breath. Some diets, especially ketogenic diets, can change the smell of your breath. Check to see if bad breath is a side effect of your diet. 

Are You Dehydrated?

Dehydration can contribute to bad breath. Saliva suppresses the growth of bacteria in your mouth. If you’re dehydrated, you produce less saliva, so more bacteria will grow. Make sure you keep hydrated to help control the growth of bacteria. 

Is Your Oral Hygiene Good?

After considering all the above, consider the possibility that you’re not effectively cleaning teeth and gums. Review instructions on how to brush and floss your teeth, then make sure you’re brushing at least twice and flossing every day. Also, consider scheduling a professional cleaning

This might not only take care of your bad breath, but it could also head off more serious oral health problems in the future. 

Watch for More Serious Causes of Bad Breath

However, if you think none of the above are responsible for your bad breath, consider that you might have a severe problem that you need to see your dentist about. The two most common concerns related to bad breath are gum disease and an infected tooth. Here’s what to look for to help you identify them. 

Gum Disease

Gum disease is an infection of the tissue around your teeth. We usually describe it as two different forms: gingivitis and periodontitis. Gingivitis is a relatively mild form associated with bad breath but rarely causes serious problems. It can develop into periodontitis, but it doesn’t always. 

Periodontitis can be a very serious condition. In periodontitis, the gum infection has started to trigger the loss of gums and bone around teeth. It can lead to receding gums, loose teeth, and, eventually, tooth loss. It can also contribute to your risk of serious health problems like heart disease, liver damage, dementia, and more. It can lead to persistent bad breath because the deep pockets that develop around teeth are ideal locations for anaerobic bacteria. These bacteria “breathe” sulfur instead of oxygen, so they give off smelly sulfur compounds. 

You can recognize gum disease by symptoms like:

  • Red gums
  • Swollen gums
  • Tender gums
  • Bleeding gums
  • Receding gums
  • Shifting teeth
  • Loose teeth
  • Tooth loss

Many people think it’s normal for your gums to bleed when brushing. This is not normal, it’s a sign of poor gum health, and you should talk to your dentist about it. Bleeding gums is one of the first noticeable gum disease symptoms and a good opportunity to head off the development of worse gum disease. 

Infected (Abscessed) Tooth

Cavities start as tiny holes in your teeth. Eventually, though, they can penetrate deep into a tooth, reaching the interior chamber where the living part of the tooth shelters. When this happens, the bacteria kill the tooth and replace it with bacteria. 

Because the interior of your tooth is isolated from the air, it’s another place for anaerobic bacteria to thrive. This can lead to bad-smelling emissions from the infected tooth. 

Watch for these symptoms of an infected tooth:

  • Toothache, especially a severe toothache
  • Tooth sensitivity
  • Discolored tooth
  • Swelling near tooth
  • Pimple or open sore on gums near the tooth
  • Discharge from tooth or gums
  • Localized warmth or fever

Toothache associated with an infected tooth can be severe. This type of toothache can wake you up at night, keep you from sleeping, and keep you from following your routine. Your tooth might be sensitive to temperature and touch, with pain lingering long after the stimulus is gone. However, not everyone with an infected tooth develops a toothache. If your tooth is draining, which can worsen the bad breath problem, you might not experience a toothache at all. 

If you suspect an infected tooth, seek treatment right away with root canal therapy or an extraction. An untreated tooth infection not only contributes to future health problems, but it can also potentially spread infection throughout your body with possibly lethal consequences. 

Looking for Healthy Teeth and Fresh Breath in Fort Atkinson, WI?

If you are unhappy with chronic bad breath and want to make sure your teeth and gums are healthy, please call (920) 563-7323 or use our online contact form to schedule an appointment with a family dentist at BKS Dental in Fort Atkinson, WI.