I. Stephen Brown, DDS
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The Perio Group Blog

What Causes Bad Breath?

Bad breath is a condition affecting over 80 million Americans. Temporary malodor, or the more persistent condition known as halitosis, can be caused by certain foods or systemic disease, but more often, it is due to a combination of poor oral hygiene and gum (Periodontal) disease. (previous sentence starting “Temporary malodor should be hyperlinked to: http://badbreathawarenessmonth.org/?page_id=18

The warm, dark, moist environment of the mouth, with many hidden spaces, is populated with more than 500 different types of bacteria. These germs are most often found in gum pockets and on the surface of the tongue. The microorganisms feed on leftover food particles and naturally occurring sulfur containing proteins. Bacteria digest these proteins, which in turn, produce the familiar rotten egg smelling gases known as Volatile Sulfur Compounds (VSCs).

Mouthwashes, Breath Mints, Toothpaste, Chewing Gum and other commonly used “remedies,” represent a billion dollar industry, whose products are largely ineffective in eliminating bad breath. At best, they provide momentary “perfuming” of the breath. Such attempts are doomed to failure, because they represent nothing more than an unsatisfactory attempt to minimize the results, without eliminating cause.

 

How Can This Condition Be Improved?

Bad breath can usually be avoided by proper dental care and prevention of gum disease. Gum Disease is caused by bacteria which result in the build up of plaque. Often called Gingivitis in its early stages, gum disease affects an estimated 80% of adults. Left untreated, periodontal disease may lead to gum recession, tooth loss and other, potentially life-threatening health problems. Gum disease also may be connected to damage elsewhere in the body; recent studies link oral infections with diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and premature, low-weight births. (Hi light or another color and hyperlink to: http://perio.org/consumer/mbc.top2.htm­)

 

Gum Disease, Bad Breath and Other Health Problems

Your teeth and gums can hold important clues to overall health. Studies suggest that people who have gum disease are at a much higher risk from heart attack and other systemic diseases. One of the mechanisms for this problem is bacteria hidden within the infected gums and tongue surface, which can dislodge and attach to plaque in the arteries.1

Of further interest, especially for the elderly, “an association between oral conditions such as periodontal disease and Respiratory Diseases has been noted. Recent evidence has suggested a central role for the oral cavity in respiratory infection. The teeth may serve as a reservoir for respiratory pathogens, and oral bacteria can be aspirated into the lungs to cause pneumonia.”2

 

Effective Methods of Treating Bad Breath

Bad breath can be treated by minimizing or eliminating the bacteria associated with periodontal disease. Effective removal is facilitated by treating active gum disease, thoroughly removing bacteria, and eliminating foreign material and dead tissue from the surface of the tongue. One of the best methods for achieving this result is to make use of the laser as an effective tool in the war against the bacteria known as periodontal pathogens. (Hi Light and hyper link to: http://www.theperiogroup.com/laser-gum-treatment-philadelphia/laser-alternatives-to-gum-surgery.html

An oxidizing agent, such as (Activated Chlorine Dioxide), has the capability of eliminating existing odors (VSC’s) by:

  • Killing the germs that produce the odors
  • Neutralizing sulfur proteins used by the bacteria

Combining this three pronged attack:

  • Treating the gum disease
  • Removing the bacteria from the tongue
  • Neutralizing the gases with an oxidizing agent

The foregoing will provide the most comprehensive and effective means for eliminating chronic bad breath. Routine preventive periodontal maintenance, no less than four times a year, will insure ongoing freedom from breath malodor.

 

 

1. AcademyofGeneralDentistry, Oral Health Resources, March 2007

2.  J. of Periodontology, July 99, vol. 70, No. 7, 793-802

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