Gum disease is a very common condition where the gums become swollen, sore or infected.
Most adults in the UK have gum disease to some degree and most people experience it at least once. It's much less common in children.
If you have gum disease, your gums may bleed when you brush your teeth and you may have bad breath. This early stage of gum disease is known as gingivitis.
If gingivitis isn't treated, a condition called periodontitis can develop. This affects more tissues that support teeth and hold them in place.
If periodontitis isn't treated, the bone in your jaw may be damaged and small spaces can open up between the gum and teeth. Your teeth can become loose and may eventually fall out.
Todays Blog will look at one aspect of poor oral Health:
Bad Breath: Bad breath is a common problem that can affect anyone at any age.
About one in four people are thought to have bad breath (halitosis) on a regular basis.
What causes bad breath?
There are a number of things that can cause bad breath. It's usually the result of poor oral hygiene. If bacteria build up in your mouth, the toxins produced can cause your breath to smell. Bacteria break down pieces of food in the mouth, and may release an unpleasant-smelling gas. Any food trapped on your teeth – particularly between them – is broken down by bacteria, which may cause bad breath.
Persistent bad breath can sometimes be a sign of gum disease. Eating strongly flavoured foods, such as onions and garlic, can also cause your breath to smell, as can smoking and drinking alcohol. Occasionally, bad breath can occur after an infection or illness, or as a result of taking certain types of medication.
Treating and preventing bad breath
Improving your oral hygiene is usually enough to cure bad breath and stop it happening again.
To improve your oral health, make sure you:
- floss between your teeth daily
- brush your teeth and gums regularly
- clean your tongue regularly
When to seek medical advice
See your dentist or dental hygienist first if you still have bad breath after making changes to improve your dental hygiene. You may also need to visit your GP as there may be a medical cause that needs to be investigated. Don't try to hide the smell of your breath when seeking medical advice as it may make it more difficult to find out what's causing the problem.
There are a number of possible causes of bad breath (halitosis).
Poor oral hygiene
The most common cause of bad breath is poor oral hygiene. Bacteria that build up on your teeth – particularly between them – as well as your tongue and gums, can produce unpleasant-smelling gases. These bacteria are also responsible for gum disease and tooth decay.
If you don't floss and brush your teeth regularly, any food trapped between your teeth will be broken down by the bacteria and may be responsible for bad breath.
Bacteria can also live on the rough surface of your tongue. As well as brushing your teeth, cleaning your tongue can also help control bad breath.
You should have regular dental check-ups to ensure any oral hygiene problems are picked up and treated early. Your dentist will be able to advise you about how often you need a check-up and a dental hygiene appointment.
Food and drink
Eating strongly flavoured foods, such as garlic, onions and spices, is likely to make your breath smell. Strong-smelling drinks, such as coffee and alcohol can also cause bad breath.
Bad breath caused by food and drink is usually temporary. It can be avoided by not eating or drinking these types of food and drink too often. Good general hygiene will also help.
Smoking is another cause of bad breath. As well as making your breath smell, smoking stains your teeth, irritates your gums, and reduces your sense of taste.
It can also significantly affect the development of gum disease, another major cause of bad breath. Stopping smoking will lower your risk of gum disease and help prevent bad breath.
Crash dieting, fasting, and low-carbohydrate diets are another possible cause of bad breath. They cause the body to break down fat, which produces chemicals called ketones that can be smelled on your breath.
Some types of medication can also cause bad breath. These include:
- Nitrates – these are sometimes used to treat angina, chest pain caused by a restriction in the blood supply to the heart
- Some chemotherapy medication
- Tranquillisers (phenothiazines)
If the medication you're taking is causing bad breath, your GP may be able to recommend an alternative.
In rare cases, bad breath can be caused by certain medical conditions. In Dry mouth (xerostomia), the flow and composition of saliva may be affected.
A lack of saliva can cause more bacteria than normal to build up in your mouth, as well as a change in the types of bacteria. A build-up of these in the mouth may lead to bad breath.
Dry mouth can sometimes be caused by a problem in the salivary glands or by breathing through your mouth instead of your nose.
In some cases, gastrointestinal conditions can also cause bad breath. For example, a bacterial infection of the stomach lining and small intestine (H. pylori infection) and gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD) have been linked to bad breath.
Other medical conditions that can cause bad breath include diabetes and lung, throat, or nose infections – for example, bronchiectasis, bronchitis, tonsillitis and sinusitis.
Your General Doctor will be able to advise you on these conditions and they may also advise you to book an appointment with your Dentist.
Some people are convinced they have bad breath when they don't. This psychological condition is called halitophobia.
People with halitophobia are paranoid about the smell of their breath. They often misinterpret other people's behaviour and comments, thinking they're suggesting they have bad breath. They become fixated with cleaning their teeth, chewing gum, and using mouth fresheners.
Treatment for halitophobia involves talking therapies, such as Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), to help the person overcome their paranoia and fixation on the smell of their breath.
Here’s wishing you all minty fresh breath ………………………………. :)