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Can dental issues cause bad breath?

Bad breath. For one reason or another, it's something we all experience at some point in life. Hopefully, it's because you've just eaten a lot of garlic and the smell will be gone with a good brush and some time. However, sometimes there are darker causes afoot – or perhaps, atooth.

Halitosis, as it's technically called, can be a symptom of a number of underlying oral health issues pertaining to your teeth, gums and tongue. In this article, we'll take a look at some of the most common causes of bad breath and how you can treat the problem at its root.

1. Dry mouth (xerostomia)

When saliva production is low, this is called drymouth or xerostomia, and it tends to be a side effect of some medications.

Saliva plays a number of important roles in the mouth, not the least of them regulating oral pH levels to break down and remove food debris from the mouth. Without enough saliva in your mouth, proteins such as cysteine and methionine can linger and produce sulfur contain compounds which give off unpleasant smells.

Brushing and flossing regularly can help to remove these proteins from your mouth, however it's a good idea to consult with your dentist about the possible causes of dry mouth if you have concerns.

Sometimes, important medication can cause dry mouth. Sometimes, important medication can cause dry mouth.

2. Dry socket

If you've recently had a tooth extracted and are experiencing gum pain along with bad breath, it's likely you have dry socket. This occurs when a blood clot is lost from the gum, usually due to drinking through a straw or smoking. When the clot comes away, it's likely to be very painful – so this would usually be a stronger indicator of dry socket than bad breath.

That said, bleeding or food debris trapped in the socket can contribute to bad breath. Your dentist will need to clean the wound and apply new dressing to treat the dry socket.

3. Failed dental work

Sometimes, new implants or restoration work can fail, allowing food or bacteria to become trapped under the piece. When this happens, you may experience bad breath as well as an unpleasant taste in your mouth. It's important to talk to a dentist about this, so they can perform an x-ray and identify if a failed restoration is at play.

In the unlikely event of a restoration failure, you might experience bad breath.In the unlikely event of a restoration failure, you might experience bad breath.

4. Tooth decay

When you don't brush regularly, you leave countless bacteria and acids in your mouth that work to wear down the enamel of your teeth. These alone can smell pretty unpleasant, but once they burrow into the soft pulp of the tooth, the smell can become significantly worse due to the intense build-up of bacteria. You're likely to also feel pain in the tooth or sensitivity to temperatures.

If you suspect a cavity, it's important to consult a dentist as soon as possible to reduce the potential for severe damage.

5. Gum disease

Perhaps the biggest offender when it comes to bad breath, gum disease can present itself at a number of different stages.

Its most basic stage is gingivitis – something most of us will have experienced at some point. On top of bad breath, symptoms include bleeding and/or inflamed gums. Gingivitis occurs when plaque is left to build up on your teeth and agitate your gums. During early-stage gum disease, your breath might smell like rotten eggs or cabbage. You can generally treat this yourself by ensuring you're brushing and flossing regularly and thoroughly.

Left unchecked, however, gingivitis can develop into periodontitis. This is a much more serious condition that must be treated by a dentist, and ideally identified early – before bacteria can spread to other parts of the body. If you're experiencing late-stage gum disease, your breath may smell metallic as a result of the iron in your blood breaking down or the rotten smell may intensify.

Are your gums looking healthy? Keep an eye out for signs of gum disease.Are your gums looking healthy? Keep an eye out for signs of gum disease.

6. White tongue

If your teeth and gums appear healthy, it's time to look to your tongue instead. If you notice a white coating at the back of your tongue, this can be a sign of poor oral hygiene. Your tongue is covered in tiny crevices and much like your teeth, debris is prone to get caught there. This can include food particles, sulfur compounds, mucus and more. When left on the tongue, bacteria can start to break all these things down and release unpleasant smells.

Simply brushing your tongue or using a tongue cleaner every day can be enough to wash this away.

Do note that white patches on the tongue can instead be a sign of oral thrush or other conditions. If cleaning your tongue doesn't remove the white coating, consider seeking a professional's opinion.

Are you experiencing persistent bad breath? If you've done all you can at home, it could be time to see the dentist. Request an appointment online or 04 978 4964 to book in with the friendly team at City Dentists today.

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