Like body odor, bad breath is something no one wants to deal with, especially in public. Given the quality of modern oral care and the number of products available for maintaining good dental hygiene, it should be avoidable. Some people, however, suffer with bad breath from dry mouth problems, which has little to do with poor hygiene. The good news is, you can take steps to identify and treat the problem, as well as prevent it from recurring.
Causes of Mouth Dryness
Ongoing dryness of your mouth can be a symptom of various medical conditions, including Parkinson's disease, as the Journal of Parkinson's Disease reports, or even diabetes. Mouth dryness (known as xerostomia) is also a side effect of some medication. These include antihistamines, pain medication, chemotherapy for cancer, statins for cholesterol reduction and beta-blockers for heart disease, according to the American Dental Association (ADA). Minor illnesses such as mild dehydration, vomiting or flu may also result in a temporary dry mouth.
Reasons for Bad Breath
The use of medication doesn't directly cause you to develop bad breath. Instead, the chemicals found in the medications inhibit the production of saliva by your salivary glands. Saliva keeps the soft tissues of your mouth moist and hydrated and washes food particles and bacteria away from the surfaces of your teeth, according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. Without sufficient saliva to perform these tasks, the increased presence of bacteria in your mouth – coupled with dry oral tissues – produces the odor commonly associated with bad breath from dry mouth.
Diagnosing the Problem
Getting a clear diagnosis of the cause of your dry mouth problem is paramount, as it will enable your doctor to treat you properly. Most dental professionals can quickly determine whether the cause is related to your oral health, and if you're diagnosed with periodontal disease or cavities, your dentist can resolve the issues. If your dry mouth is a result of medication or another medical condition, you may need the care of a physician or specialist to diagnose and address it.
Most patients require a two-pronged approach to treating dry mouth problems. Initially, your doctor is likely to recommend treatment for your symptoms, which can range from dental sores to bad breath. Treatment may also include antibiotics for signs of oral infection, or an oral product such as Colgate® Orabase® 20% Benzocaine, which helps shield canker and mouth sores so they heal. At the same time, your physician will investigate the cause of your dry mouth, conducting tests for any medical conditions or making adjustments to your medications and dosages.
If you find your medication alternatives are limited, or you're diagnosed with one of the medical conditions that cause xerostomia, your best method of preventing bad breath from dry mouth is to maintain a high level of oral hygiene in order to control the bacteria and avoid the development of bad breath and mouth sores. You can ask your doctor to recommend products specially formulated to prevent dry mouth, and avoid habits such as smoking, drinking alcohol and caffeine. Try to maintain your stress levels, and protect your overall health to the best of your ability to avoid this pesky occurrence.