Curing bad breath: An all-encompassing approach.
There are a number of different factors that must be addressed.
Since bad breath is caused by the smelly waste products (volatile sulfur compounds - VSC's) produced by anaerobic oral bacteria, curing it must involve steps targeted directly at them. Overall, treatment must accomplish the following:
- Reduce the total number of anaerobic bacteria that live in your mouth.
- Remove the types of environments in which these bacteria like to live.
- Make any location in which they do live less hospitable.
- Limit the amount of food available to them.
As a secondary step, a person may choose to use products that can help to neutralize volatile sulfur compounds.
A) Effective mouth cleaning is the key to curing bad breath.
a) Tooth brushing and flossing.
The types of bacteria that cause bad breath live in the dental plaque that builds up on and around teeth both above, and especially below, the gum line.
Removing this plaque removes a home for these bacteria. And the fewer of them that there are in your mouth, the fresher your breath will be.
Both brushing AND flossing is needed. It's not realistic to think that smells coming from around teeth can be controlled unless effective flossing is an integral part of the person's daily oral home care.
b) Cleaning your tongue. (Nothing is more important.)
When it comes to curing bad breath, nothing is more important than cleaning your tongue, especially the back part.
Simply incorporating this step to a person's daily mouth-cleaning routine has cured more cases of bad breath than anything else. It's so important that we've dedicated an entire page to it.
c) Oral rinses.
You may choose to incorporate a mouthwash or rinse into your home-care routine. They often claim antibacterial or VSC-neutralizing properties. Our opinion would be, however, that these products should be considered to be only adjuncts rather than the primary method of controlling oral bacteria and their byproducts. Here's why.
Rinses typically have a tough time penetrating the full thickness of oral films and therefore it's difficult for them to provide an effective or complete benefit. (The bacteria living on or near a film's surface receive the treatment. Those living in its deepest recess may receive no effect at all.)
In comparison, the mechanical disruption/removal of oral films by brushing, flossing and tongue scraping is quite predictable and unquestionably effective.
B) Minimize the food supply that's available.
The volatile sulfur compounds that cause bad breath are the waste byproducts created by anaerobic oral bacteria as they digest proteins. That's why it's so important for a person to clean their mouth thoroughly after eating, and especially after consuming foods that have a high protein content.
When we're finished eating, minute particles of food still remain in our mouth. A lot of this debris ends up in between our teeth and incorporated into the coating found on the back part of our tongue.
Since these are precisely the locations in which the bacteria that cause bad breath live, if a person doesn't clean their mouth promptly and thoroughly, food is provided for them over an extended period of time.
C) Make an appointment with your dentist.
If your bad breath problem persists, even after a period of following all of the tips and suggestions we make on this topic's pages, you should schedule an examination and cleaning appointment with your dentist so they can evaluate your situation. During this visit, the following can be accomplished:
1) Effective brushing and flossing technique can be difficult to learn. Your dentist should be able to provide you with instructions, tips, and pointers that can help to improve your routine.
2) Tartar (dental calculus) accumulation can interfere with effective brushing and flossing as well as harbor bacteria. Your dental cleaning will remove this debris from your teeth.
3) A part of your dentist's examination will include a periodontal evaluation.
Periodontal disease (gum disease) can cause significant damage to your gums and the bone that surrounds them.
This damage can result in the creation of deep spaces between your teeth and gums called "periodontal pockets." These pockets are often impossible for you to clean effectively and therefore make an ideal environment for the bacteria that cause bad breath to live.
If a periodontal problem is found, your dentist can outline the treatment that will be needed to get your condition under control.
4) During your examination your dentist will check to see if there are any untreated dental conditions that could be causing or aggravating your breath problems.
5) Your dentist can determine if it's unlikely that oral conditions are the cause of your bad breath and that a referral to a doctor for a medical evaluation is indicated.