Have you ever noticed a friend's bad breath while conversing with them? It's possible their breath wasn't the result of too much garlic at lunch, but rather something more serious. When you have a condition called perio breath, problems with your gums may contribute to bad odours in your mouth. Here's how gum problems and bad breath are connected and what you can do to prevent both of these oral issues.
Gum problems typically stem from poor oral hygiene. It's more common in individuals over 30 years old, and it generally affects men more than women. If you have any of the below symptoms, it's a good idea to make an appointment with your dentist to check your gum health:
- Inflamed, swollen or tender gums
- Sensitive or loose teeth
- Receding gums or teeth that appear longer
- Pain when chewing or a misaligned bite
- Bad breath.
In the early stage of gum problems, the damage to your gums may be reversible. However, once you've developed the more serious form, known as periodontitis, the breakdown of your gum tissue is irreversible.
Bad breath, known clinically as halitosis, is really caused by germs that are in the mouth. These germs break down proteins and release volatile sulfur compounds (VSCs), which have a bad smell. Dental issues, such as gum problems or infection, can contribute to bad breath and make the issue more pronounced.
According to a case study in the Journal of International Society of Preventive & Community Dentistry available from the United States National Library of Medicine, the vast majority of halitosis cases relate to gum problems, periodontitis or germs coating the tongue. In fact, up to 80% of patients with some degree of gum problems also exhibited halitosis in the study.
Inflamed tissues in patients with gum problems can provide a source for the production of VSCs in the mouth. If the patient has developed periodontitis because of extensive plaque build-up, their perio breath can become more severe.
Just as the health of the gums affects a person's breath, the reverse is also true — halitosis can, in turn, affect a person's risk of developing periodontal problems. The Journal of International Society of Preventive & Community Dentistry review notes that this may occur when VSC-producing germs migrate to the gum tissues, though the connection is not yet fully understood by dental experts.
Periodontitis requires treatment from a dental professional. Treatment may involve a deep cleaning called scaling and root planing, where the dental specialist eliminates all the germs above and below the gumline. Your dental specialist may also prescribe antimicrobial medications to control germs in the mouth. In more severe periodontal cases, you may need gum flap surgery or bone or tissue grafts to replace the oral structures lost to periodontal problems.
In the United States, the Victoria State Government explains that the treatment for halitosis will depend on the underlying cause, so speak with your dentist about the best course of action for you. Strengthening your oral care routine with tongue scrapers or mouthwash may be a good idea.
The good news is that maintaining a strong and consistent oral care routine will lower your risk of both gum problems and halitosis. Ensure that you follow these steps to keep your oral care in tip-top shape:
- Brush your teeth at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste.
- Floss once every day.
- See your dentist for regular check-ups and ask about additional products to help control the build-up of germs in the mouth, such as a mouthrinse.
Sticking to a good oral hygiene routine will help you feel more confident, not only about your breath, but also about the overall health of your mouth.