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Make your dentist your first stop in dealing with bad breath

Whether you call it bad breath or halitosis, it's an unpleasant condition that's cause for embarrassment. If you're concerned about bad breath, see your dentist. He or she can help identify the cause and, if it's due to an oral condition, develop a treatment plan to help eliminate it.

Dentists are taught in dental school about the oral causes of bad breath. Regular checkups will allow your dentist to detect any problems such as periodontal disease, a dry mouth or other disorders that may be the cause of bad breath. Maintaining good oral hygiene, eliminating periodontal disease and scheduling regular professional cleanings are essential to reducing bad breath.

If your dentist determines that your mouth is healthy and that the odor is not of oral origin, you may be referred to your family physician or to a specialist to determine the cause of the odor and for treatment. Of course, if the odor is of oral origin, as it is in the majority of cases, your dentist can treat the cause of the problem.

If the odor is due to periodontal disease, your dentist can either treat the disease or refer you to a periodontist, a specialist in treating gum tissues. Periodontal disease can cause gum tissues to pull away from the teeth and form pockets. When these pockets are deep, only a professional periodontal cleaning can remove the bacteria and plaque that accumulate. Sometimes more extensive treatment is necessary.

If you have extensive build-up of plaque, an invisible layer of bacteria, your dentist may recommend using a special antimicrobial toothpaste or mouthrinse. Antiseptic and antibacterial mouthrinses and toothpastes can be beneficial in reducing plaque and gingivitis and also have breath freshening properties. Instead of simply masking breath odor, some of these products have been demonstrated to kill the germs that cause bad breath.

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

9/14/2009

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