Bad breath is normal – to a certain extent. After a pungent meal or missing your normal tooth brushing, you can expect some level of odor. Usually, bad breath is related to hygiene issues, such as not properly brushing or flossing your teeth or eating foods that get stuck between the teeth. But bad breath that doesn’t seem to go away can indicate other health issues. Below are 5 reasons you might have persistent bad breath.
Bad breath can indicate an infection.
Infections in the mouth are relatively common, but they’re still cause for concern. If you have cavities, rotten teeth or cuts in your mouth, they can become infected. Infections cause pain, discomfort – and bad breath. If you have an oral infection, your doctor or dentist will likely prescribe antibiotics and salt rinses or prescription mouthwashes to clear the infection.
Gum disease causes bad breath.
Gum disease is a type of persistent infection that affects the soft tissue, or gums, in your mouth. The bacteria that cause gum disease can quickly dissolve your teeth and even your jawbones. This same bacteria also causes bad breath, which is one of the first signs of gum disease. You can prevent gum disease by flossing regularly and taking proper care of your teeth. But if your gum disease has already progressed, you may need laser therapy, soft tissue grafting or other procedures.
You might have tonsil stones.
Your tonsils are the two sacs at the back of your throat. Tonsils have multiple holes in them, similar to a sponge. Food and old tissue from your mouth can get trapped in the holes there, causing small “stones” to form. These stones become smelly and contribute to bad breath. If you look into the back of your throat, you may see white or yellow spots on your tonsils, which indicates tonsil stones. Dentists and doctors can remove these by gently pressing on the tonsils, but if they recur frequently, your dentist may recommend changing your diet or having your tonsils removed.
Stomach issues can even cause bad breath!
Your body is a system. Your belly and your mouth are directly connected. Everything you eat passes through your mouth into your stomach, and while it isn’t common for stomach issues to cause bad breath, some of them – like acid reflux – do. If you have a gastrointestinal disorder that causes acid reflux or vomiting, these can contribute to bad breath. A dentist can prescribe the appropriate treatment for that symptom.
Some cancers can cause bad breath, too.
Cancer in your mouth, throat or larynx can cause bad breath. If you have bad breath alone, you likely don’t have cancer. But if you have bad breath and also experience the following symptoms, you should schedule an oral cancer exam with your dentist right away. Oral cancer symptoms include:
- Pain in the ear.
- Pain in the jaw or throat.
- Difficulty swallowing.
- Difficulty speaking.
- Persistent sores in the mouth.
- Unexplained weight loss.
When to See a Dentist About Bad Breath
The first step you should take if you have bad breath is changing your habits. Brush and floss more frequently, eat a healthier diet and drink more water. If you smoke or use tobacco products like chew or dip, you should try to quit, too. Tobacco products are known for damaging teeth and soft tissues in the mouth, causing odor. Additionally, these products cause oral cancers that contribute to bad breath.
These small changes can make a big difference if your bad breath is caused by hygiene habits. But if your breath doesn’t improve after making these changes, contact your dentist. They can look for cavities, gum disease and other factors that cause bad breath. The Elkhart Periodontic and Implants team is skilled at treating and restoring your oral health.