What Should I Do If I Have Bad Breath?
Bad breath, or halitosis, can be embarrassing for you and unpleasant for others, but it is not an uncommon condition, and there are a number of easy ways to prevent or treat it.
The primary cause for halitosis is the accumulation of bacteria in the gums and on the tongue, particularly at the back of the tongue. Your mouth is an ideal environment for bacteria to thrive in, and bad breath can often be attributed to the waste created after that bacteria feeds on the food debris in your mouth.
What Can Cause Bad Breath?
Common causes of bath breath include:
• Sleep: “Morning breath” is the result of the drastically reduced saliva flow that occurs during sleep, which results in a less clean, more bacteria-filled mouth when you wake up.
• Certain Foods: Eating particularly smelly foods, including garlic or onions, can cause a strong sulfur-based smell to emanate not only from your mouth but from your stomach, as well.
• Poor Oral Hygiene: Failing to brush and floss regularly promotes odor-causing bacteria growth.
• Periodontal or Gum Disease: Food can become trapped in the inflamed gum tissue, allowing odor-causing bacteria to grow.
• Dry Mouth (Xerostomia): Saliva works to keep your mouth clean. If you don’t have enough, your breath can smell unpleasant. Common causes of dry mouth include certain medications, smoking, issues with salivary glands, and frequent breathing through the mouth.
• Diets: Known as “keto breath,” your body can produce an unpleasant smell when burning off fat for energy instead of carbs.
• Dehydration and Missed Meals: Drinking and chewing increase saliva production, which works to cleanse the mouth of odor-causing bacteria.
• Medical Conditions: Diabetes, issues with the liver or kidneys, and respiratory illnesses can all be sources of halitosis.
• Tooth decay, ill-fitting dental appliances, and use of tobacco products can also lead to bad breath.
While it can be hard to deal with bad breath, there are a number of solutions that can make things better.
Ways to Prevent Bad Breath
• Brush and floss regularly. Brushing your teeth twice daily and flossing once a day can prevent the growth of odor-causing bacteria in your mouth. Be sure to brush the back of your tongue or use a tongue scraper, as that is where much of the odor-causing bacteria can be found.
• Use mouthwash/mouth rinses. Antiseptic rinses can freshen breath and kill odor-causing bacteria.
• Stay hydrated. Keeping your mouth moist will help to wash away odor-causing bacteria.
• Don’t use tobacco products. Tobacco dries your mouth, which can lead to halitosis. It also weakens your sense of smell, meaning you may not even know when your breath smells unpleasant.
• Schedule regular dentist appointments. A regular checkup and cleaning every six months can help to prevent bad breath.
If your dentist finds that your mouth is healthy, yet your halitosis is persistent, you may be referred to your physician in order to determine the cause of the odor.
How Often Should I Brush and Floss?
When you fail to brush and floss often enough, you allow plaque to develop on your teeth and gums. Plaque is a sticky film made from bacteria that produce acids from the leftover food in your mouth. These acids cause tooth decay and gum disease.
Using an American Dental Association-approved soft bristle toothbrush and toothpaste, brush your teeth at least twice a day for at least two minutes at a time. It’s especially important to brush before bed. Electric toothbrushes are a great way to get the job done.
Tips for Brushing Properly:
• Brush in small circles at a 45-degree angle to your gums.
• Be sure to brush all surfaces: Outer, inner, and biting.
• Brushing the tongue, particularly the back of the tongue, helps to freshen breath.
Simply brushing your teeth twice a day is not enough. Flossing daily is the only way to remove bacteria and food particles from the places that a toothbrush can’t reach. If you have difficulty holding conventional dental floss, try using a floss holder instead.
Rinse your mouth with water after brushing and after every meal. Your dentist can also recommend over-the-counter antiseptic rinsing products.
Are Amalgam (Silver) Fillings Safe?
Yes, it is generally agreed by dentists that amalgam (silver) fillings are safe. Dentists have used silver fillings bound by elemental mercury for more than a century. In spite of mercury’s reputation as a potentially toxic material, the American Dental Association (ADA), the CDC, the WHO, and the FDA all consider silver fillings safe for any patient who doesn’t have allergies to any of the components. The reason for this is that the blending of copper, silver, tin, and zinc with mercury causes it to become inactive and therefore non-toxic.
Silver is not the only option for dental fillings, however. Porcelain, gold, and tooth-colored composites are other frequently used materials. Discuss your options with your dentist in order to determine which one will best suit you.
How Often Should I Have a Dental Exam & Cleaning?
It’s recommended that you schedule a dentist appointment at least twice a year in order to maintain optimal oral health and to prevent dental issues. In certain circumstances, however, you may need to come in more often.
What Does a Regular Dental Exam and Cleaning Entail?
A good dental exam and cleaning is not just a cavity check and a tooth polishing. There is much more to good oral health and hygiene than that.
When you go for your bi-annual exam and cleaning, you can expect any of the following:
• Examination of X-Rays: The dentist will examine your X-rays for tumors, cysts, tooth decay, and bone loss.
• Oral Cancer Screening: The dentist will check your face, neck, and mouth for signs of oral cancer.
• Gum Disease Evaluation: The dentist will look for signs of periodontal disease.
• Tooth Decay Examination: The dentist will examine you for signs of tooth decay using special dental instruments.
• Examination of Existing Fillings, Crowns, and More: If you’ve had previous dental work, your dentist will check to make sure there are no issues with any of the restorations.
• Plaque Removal: Plaque is a sticky film made up from leftover food, saliva, and bacteria that can cause bad breath and gum disease. Your dentist will remove plaque buildup in order to avoid these issues.
• Calculus (Tartar) Removal: When plaque is left unchecked for too long, it hardens into tartar. Tartar removal requires specialized dental instruments.
• ToothPolishing: Tooth polishing will remove stains and make your teeth look whiter and brighter.
Your dentist will also review your medical history and dietary habits. Medical conditions, current medications, illnesses, and your diet can all be connected to your dental health. After looking at your medical history and performing an examination, your dentist will also be able to make specific oral hygiene recommendations for you.
How Can I Tell If I Have Gingivitis or Periodontitis (Gum Disease)?
Gum disease, or periodontitis, is a common issue in many adults. Oftentimes, there are no obvious or uncomfortable symptoms of periodontitis, but if it is left unchecked for too long, it can lead to receding gums, deterioration of the jaw bone, tooth loss, and more. Gum disease has even been found to increase the risk of serious health issues, such as heart disease and diabetes.
Plaque is the main cause of gum disease. When it is allowed to build upon the teeth and gums, the bacteria will eventually cause inflammation and bone deterioration. Regular brushing, flossing, and rinsing can prevent these issues. Even if you have good oral hygiene, there are still ways to decrease the risk of developing periodontitis.
Causes of Periodontitis
Here are some of the most common reasons that periodontitis develops:
• Using tobacco products, which can increase plaque and tartar buildup
• Dental restorations that are ill-fitting or defective, causing them to trap plaque and bacteria
• Tooth overcrowding, which allows for bacteria and plaque buildup
• Medications like steroids, blood pressure medicines, oral contraceptives, cancer therapy drugs, and more
• Fluctuating hormone levels from pregnancy, puberty, or menopause
• Systemic diseases, including blood cell disorders, diabetes, HIV/AIDS, and more
Symptoms of Periodontitis
• Inflamed gums that are red in appearance
• Gums that bleed when brushing or flossing
• Chronic halitosis (bad breath)
• Receding gum lines
• Sensitive teeth caused by receding gums
• Loose teeth caused by weakening of the gum tissue
• Infection, as indicated by pus around the gums and teeth
• Tender gums
You can avoid periodontitis by brushing and flossing regularly, maintaining a well-rounded diet, and scheduling regular checkups with your dentist.
Why Is It Important to Use Dental Floss?
It might be easy to think that you’re keeping your teeth in great shape by simply brushing twice a day, but the truth is that if you’re not also flossing daily, then your oral health and hygiene are going to suffer.
When you floss, you reach the parts of your teeth and gums that your toothbrush cannot, removing food debris and ensuring that hidden plaque buildup, which causes gum disease, is not allowed to develop. The bacteria in plaque digest food debris into acids that decay your teeth and inflame your gums. These bacteria are what leads to halitosis, or bad breath.
Flossing is important not only because it keeps your smile healthy and prevents bad breath, but also because it is vital for the prevention of gum disease, which can, in turn, lead to a number of different health issues.
How to Floss Properly
Here are the steps to flossing properly:
• Wrap about 12-16 inches (30-40 cm) of floss around your middle fingers.
• Using your thumb and forefingers, gently insert the floss between your teeth, leaving about two inches between the hands.
• Clean between each tooth using back and forth motions, as well as up and down motions to clean the sides of the teeth.
How Can Cosmetic Dentistry Improve the Appearance of My Smile?
Having cosmetic issues with your teeth can be painful and embarrassing. It’s hard to feel self-confident when smiling makes you feel uncomfortable or ashamed. Fortunately, there are a number of cosmetic procedures that can repair, restore, and replace broken, decayed, or missing teeth. Many of these procedures have been in use for decades, but in recent years, advances in cosmetic dentistry have made fixing and enhancing your smile a much easier, and much less painful, process.
Over the course of time, teeth can become stained by all sorts of things: Drinking wine, tea, or coffee, eating certain foods, smoking, and more. These stains can be significantly lightened through the process of bleaching. Even teeth that have been darkened through injury can sometimes be lightened by bleaching, depending on the level of discoloration you’re experiencing.
Composite (Tooth-Colored) Fillings
For over a century, the primary material used to fill in cavities was silver. While silver fillings are affordable and effective, they do not have a natural tooth-like appearance. Composite fillings serve all of the same purposes that silver fillings do, except that they are designed to match the appearance of your other teeth so they’re far less likely to stick out. Composite fillings can also be used to fix teeth that are broken, chipped, or discolored.
Porcelain veneers are thin custom-made shells that are designed to fit onto the front of your teeth. If you have issues with damaged, misshapen, misaligned, or discolored teeth, veneers can give you the radiant smile you’re looking for. Porcelain veneers are durable, long-lasting, and minimally invasive, so they generally leave your original tooth structure intact.
Porcelain Crowns (Caps)
A porcelain crown can serve as a replacement for a tooth that is significantly decayed or broken but with a root that remains intact. A crown is a cap for your broken or decayed tooth that is designed to look and feel like the rest of your teeth.
Sometimes when damage or decay is significant enough, a dental implant may be necessary. Dental implants replace the root of the tooth with a metal fixture, which is designed to fuse with the jawbone through a process called osseointegration. Once the fusion has taken place, a crown, a bridge, or dentures can be attached to the implant.
Recent advances in orthodontics have made the process of straightening teeth more effective and less visually unappealing than ever. You may even be able to use clear, removable aligners instead of braces.
What are Porcelain Veneers and How Can They Improve My Smile?
Porcelain veneers are thin, custom-made shells designed to fit onto the front of your teeth in order to enhance or restore your smile. They’re durable, long-lasting, and minimally invasive, making them a very popular choice among those looking to restore or correct any of the following conditions:
• Teeth that are severely stained or discolored
• Unwanted gaps in teeth
• Chipped or worn down teeth
• Mild cases of overcrowding
• Misshapen or misaligned teeth
• Teeth that are too big or too small
Getting porcelain veneers can be fairly quick and easy. It usually only requires two visits to your dentist to have your veneers done.
On your first visit, a mold will be created of your teeth and then sent to a dental laboratory so that the veneers can be designed to fit the shape of your mouth and match the color of your other teeth.
On your second visit, you will have your custom veneers fitted and bonded. The process requires little or no anesthesia. The appointment generally consists of just a light buffing and shaping of the teeth that the veneers will fit over.
What Can I Do About Stained or Discolored Teeth?
Staining and discoloration are some of the most common cosmetic issues with teeth. The most common causes for this problem are smoking, drinking wine, drinking coffee, and eating certain foods. However, even if you were to avoid eating, drinking, or smoking anything that might stain your teeth, age itself can eventually cause them to lose their radiant glow. Aging causes the protective enamel layer of your teeth to get worn down, which can cause a change in color from bright white to something darker or more yellow.
Fortunately, there are ways to whiten teeth and give you a more radiant, confident smile. Professional tooth whitening involves the use of a bleaching agent to brighten your smile. While over-the-counter products offer similar, yet less effective, methods for combating tooth staining and discoloration, in-office treatments can be hugely helpful in restoring your smile.
Your dentist will be able to evaluate your teeth in order to determine the best possible solutions for staining and discoloration. Oftentimes, bleaching will do the trick, but there are situations where only veneers or crowns are going to be effective.
The Most Widely Used Professional Teeth Whitening Systems
In-Home Teeth Whitening Systems
You can purchase over-the-counter products that can help to whiten your teeth over the course of several weeks. These products usually require a custom mouthpiece that is lined with whitening gel. The mouthpiece is generally worn twice a day for 30-minute intervals or while you sleep.
In-Office Teeth Whitening
This is a much quicker solution that requires you to go to your dentist’s office for one or more short visits of around 30 minutes to one hour. Your dentist will apply a whitening solution to your teeth that may cause them to temporarily become sensitive but will eliminate staining and discoloration with far greater effectiveness than over-the-counter solutions. Sometimes a special light can be applied to further enhance the effectiveness of the whitening solution.
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Please note: because every patient is unique, your results may vary.