woman examining her bad breath

Bad Breath Can Be a Sign of Periodontal Disease

Is bad breath always related to what I’ve eaten or can it be the result of a health issue like periodontal disease?

The social isolation brought on by the COVID pandemic has been extremely difficult in so many ways. For a lot of people, though, it has also been surprising. Socially interacting with people every day has its own accompanying stressors, and, for more people than you might imagine, taking a break from that has not been all bad. 

There are a lot of things that can create social anxiety, but one that is guaranteed to send it through the roof is the realization that people are trying to subtly move away because we have bad breath! Often, we can grab some breath mints and shrug it off by vowing to avoid the garlic breath in the future. It’s when we discover that it has become an ongoing issue that we really need to pay attention and make an appointment with our dentist. 

Bad breath, technically halitosis, is not a new problem. Records dating back for centuries show that the Chinese would attempt to clean their teeth using pigs’ hair and that the ancient Babylonians concocted their own version of a mouthwash or breath freshener by mixing together different herbs and spices with honey. We can’t know how successful these efforts were, but rinsing your mouth with honey suggests as many problems may have been created as solved. 

We’ve come a long way from pigs’ hair and honey-based mouthwash, but we still struggle with bad breath. Behavior is often the cause of breath issues and many of those behaviors often prove difficult to change. Brushing, flossing, and getting your regular dental cleanings are extremely important for the health of your teeth and gums but may not be the answer to problems with bad breath. For ongoing issues, it is important to determine and remedy the cause.  

Common Causes of Bad Breath

Bad breath can usually be divided into two types; occasional and chronic.

Occasional Bad Breath

Breath odor issues that pop up once in a while tend to be behavior-oriented, like eating particular kinds of foods, breathing through the mouth while sleeping, or following an eating regimen, like the Keto Diet, which forces the body into a state of ketosis. The good news with occasional bad breath is that you can usually do something about it. This might be to carry breath mints or avoid foods that you know will affect your breath if you are eating in public. 

Some of the foods that are known suspects for creating bad breath include: 

  • garlic
  • onions
  • spices
  • cheese
  • fish
  • alcohol

Chronic Bad Breath

When bad breath becomes a chronic issue and cannot be blamed on the onions on your cheeseburger, it becomes something with the potential to be serious. At the top of that list is the possibility of periodontal (gum) disease, which, if not treated, can lead to tooth loss, as well as gum and bone damage. Bad breath can also be a clue that indicates the presence of conditions like diabetes, liver disease, acid reflux, kidney disease, types of metabolic disorders, sinus infections, and even cancer. 

Other conditions and behaviors that can lead to chronic bad breath include:

  • drugs and medications — the body sometimes reacts to certain medications in a way that produces an odor or may cause dryness in the mouth
  • dry mouth from disease or glandular conditions
  • tobacco use 
  • dentures — when dentures are not adequately maintained and cleaned they become a target for bacterial growth and the unpleasant odor that goes with it

When issues with bad breath are persistent, it is important to make an appointment with your dentist as soon as possible, rather than ignoring or trying to cover it up.

If you have questions about bad breath or about any of our services, whether dentistry or aesthetics, Cohen Dental Care is dedicated to delivering the highest quality services possible. We offer the latest and most current information and services to our patients with a new state-of-the-art facility in Great Neck and Briarwood. For more information or to schedule an appointment, you are invited to use our online form by clicking here.