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Bad dental care often the culprit in bad breath

What's the most common reason for bad breath? Bad dental care, say experts.

The condition stems from having "a concentration of bacteria-producing malodorous chemicals coming from the lack of oral hygiene," said Dr. Phillip Tierno, a New York University professor. The source of the odor, he says, is often particles of food stuck in between the teeth and an accumulation of bacteria in the back of the throat.

Several other factors can also contribute to bad breath, also known as halitosis:

  • Certain foods, like garlic and onions, add to objectionable breath odor.
  • Dry mouth, which occurs when the flow of saliva decreases, can cause bad breath. Saliva is needed to cleanse the mouth and remove particles that may cause odor.
  • Tobacco products cause bad breath, too. If you use tobacco, ask your dentist for help kicking the habit.

Bad breath may also signal a medical disorder, such as a local infection in the respiratory tract, chronic sinusitis, postnasal drip, chronic bronchitis, diabetes, gastrointestinal disturbance, or a liver or kidney ailment. If your dentist determines that your mouth is healthy, you may be referred to your family doctor or a specialist to determine the cause of bad breath.

If bad breath is a chronic condition, ask your dentist for help in identifying the cause and developing a treatment plan to get rid of it.

The best way to prevent bad breath is simple: maintain good oral health. See your dentist regularly for a professional cleaning and checkup. If you think you have constant bad breath, keep track of the foods you eat and make a list of medications you take.

Brush twice a day to remove food debris and plaque. Brush your tongue, too. Once a day, use floss or an interdental cleaner to clean between teeth.

Please contact the ADA if you have questions about this article.

©2010 American Dental Association. All rights reserved. Reproduction or republication is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission from the American Dental Association.

10/24/2005

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