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Halitosis – More Than Just a Smell?

bad breath
Will people remember what you say with their ears… or their nose?

Garlic, onions, and fish… Oh, my. Contrary to popular belief, even though certain foods can linger on your breath until they are fully processed by your body, they don’t really cause bad breath. Halitosis, or chronic bad breath, is a pervasive and ongoing problem that can affect personal and professional relationships, as well as impacting self-confidence in social situations.

Experts say that as many as 80 million Americans suffer from chronic halitosis, and spend more than $10 billion attempting to keep it under their breath, so to speak. But what actually causes halitosis?

Smoking

This one is a no-brainer. Cigarettes make everything stink, especially the breath of the smoker. But more importantly, we’ve told you how nicotine can slow production of saliva, which is critical to maintaining a healthy mouth. More on that below…

Xerostomia

As we discussed last month, dry mouth can wreak havoc on your teeth. But the absence of saliva leaves many food particles in your mouth to decomposed between brushings. Additionally, the bacterial imbalance favors the growth of Volatile Sulfuric Compounds (VSCs), which release waste that causes most bad breath.

Unhealthy Dieting

Many current fad diets advocate for an unhealthy nutritional balance to achieve weight-loss results. Frequent or prolonged dieting can increase ketones, which naturally occur when digesting fatty acids. As our body processes these organic compounds, the waste byproduct is expelled through the lungs, which has been linked to halitosis.

Physical Conditions

In addition to dieting, various health conditions can cause chronic bad breath due to the release of unique chemical compounds that are exhaled through the lungs. Some of the most common include gum disease, allergies, diabetes, acid reflux, liver disease, kidney failure, and even cancer.

 

If you or a family member is battling chronic bad breath, ask us at your next appointment. We may be able to recommend a treatment option that can help.

 

Strategies for Sensitive Teeth

temperature-sensitive teeth
Temperature-sensitive teeth can take the fun out of favorite foods.

Do hot or cold beverages and food make you cringe when they contact your teeth? While sharp mouth pain from chewing is usually a problem with a specific tooth, the Journal of American Dentistry estimates at least 12 percent of the population has temperature-sensitive teeth.

What’s Behind the “Ouch”?

While some people are naturally more reactive to hot or cold sensations in the mouth, recent dental work or orthodontia are often to blame for sudden discomfort. But if sensitivity is a new development that sticks around, it’s likely due to one of several reasons;

  1. Brushing too hard – using hard-bristled toothbrushes or applying too much force
  2. Acidic foods – As we’ve discussed here & here, acid is the enemy of healthy teeth
  3. Old fillings – Over time, weakened fillings can fracture or leak at the edges, leading to new decay
  4. Grinding – As we’ve said, Bruxism can cause many problems, including micro-cracks in teeth that can enhance sensitivity.
  5. Mouthwash junkie – over-use of alcohol-based products can increase sensitivity
  6. Whitening products – All you bleachorexics, beware… over-use is a big contributor to sensitive teeth

Solutions You Can Use 

Brush Gently

Instead of a power-washing, think of brushing as massage. Stiff bristles and/or scrubbing too vigorously can cause gums to recede, exposing nerve endings. Therefore, you should choose a soft-bristled toothbrush, used twice daily for two minutes. Also, always be sure to brush with an up-and-down motion, rather than side-to-side.

Change Your Toothpaste

There are numerous desensitizing toothpastes that block the transmission of sensation between teeth and nerves. When used twice daily, these over-the-counter products can bring significant temperature relief in as little as two weeks.

Double Down on Fluoride

Switch your alcohol-based mouthwash to one with fluoride to strengthen the all-important enamel layer,which naturally insulates teeth against temperature sensitivity. If you have severely sensitive teeth, there are higher-gel fluoride treatments available that can only be applied in-office. Ask us about additional fluoride options at your next visit.

Pizza for Breakfast?!   

brushing and meals
Breakfast on the go is sometimes necessary, but how can you protect your teeth? 

You’ve been there — a late wake-up, rushing out the door, needing to put anything in your stomach to start the day. And the only thing available to eat that doesn’t require a plate or utensils is… Pizza. And so pizza is what you eat for breakfast.

Contrary to many opinions, that cold leftover slice isn’t really awful for you. As for your teeth, a good brushing is all that’s required to erase the evidence in your mouth… though it won’t help with your dietary guilt. And that’s true for most foods: as long as you remove excess food residue, what you eat for breakfast won’t harm your teeth.

 

Brushing Away OJ? Don’t.

A new school of thought has emerged that brushing before breakfast is as effective as brushing after. And provided that breakfast isn’t anything with excessive sugar (sweetened cereals, syrup, jelly/jam), this is true.

But according to the Mayo Clinic (via lifehacker.com), when you brush is even more important than what you eat for breakfast. However, the Mayo experts note that the exception to this rule is when consuming food or drink that contains high levels of acid, including fresh fruits and orange juice – both of which are breakfast staples. That’s because the naturally-occurring sugars and acid in these foods temporarily weaken the tooth enamel, and normal brushing can actually cause damage. For this reason, it is recommended that you either brush before breakfast, or wait at least 30 minutes after eating.

 

A Healthy Diet DOES Matter

However, there are many nutrition choices that really do matter to your mouth. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, several specific foods contribute to good dental and overall health. They recommend eating these:

  • Calcium-rich foods —including milk, yogurt and cheese, fortified soy products, canned salmon, almonds and dark leafy greens— help promote tooth and bone health.
  • Eggs, fish, lean meat, dairy, nuts, and beans contain phosphorus, which is good for strong bones and tooth enamel.
  • For good gum health and immune functions, eat plenty of foods rich in Vitamin C, including citrus fruits, tomatoes, peppers, broccoli, potatoes, and spinach.

Always remember that the best plan is to brush after eating if you can – Even if it means you have to rinse away acidic food residue with water before brushing. If you have more questions about making healthy food choices for your body AND mouth, ask Drs. Meyer or Johns at your next appointment.

 

 

The Desert Within: Xerostomia Causes & Solutions

Xerostomia Dry Mouth
Dry Mouth?  Xerostomia is usually the symptom of an underlying problem.

Did you know?

  • In order to taste what we’re eating, the food molecules must first dissolve in our saliva
  • Unique proteins in saliva help wounds in the mouth heal faster than anywhere else on the body
  • Humans can potentially produce more than 150 gallons of saliva in a year – approximately enough to fill two bathtubs

But what if your salivary glands just don’t give a spit? Dry Mouth is a very real issue for many people and one that shouldn’t be ignored.

 

What Xerostomia Is

Dry mouth (also known as xerostomia), is abnormal dryness of the mucous membranes in the mouth caused by a reduction of the flow of saliva or a change in its composition. It is a potential symptom of several underlying disorders or can occur as a side effect of certain medications. Though it’s not a serious medical problem by itself, if left untreated dry mouth can contribute to poor nutrition, psychological discomfort, increased likelihood of mouth infections and tooth decay.

 

What Causes It

According to the American Dental Association, there are several main causes of dry mouth:

Drugs

Medication is the most frequent cause of Xerostomia, with over 400 potential dry mouth-causing medicines available by prescription and over-the-counter. Some of the most common ones include antihistamines, decongestants, antidepressants, and drugs for hypertension.

Disease

Autoimmune conditions are the most common dry mouth culprit, with Sjörgen Disease being the most-often associated. Other conditions that contribute to dry mouth include Cystic Fibrosis, Hepatitis C, and Lymphoma, as well as uncontrolled diabetes and hypertension.

Cancer Therapy

Patients undergoing radiation or chemotherapy for head and neck cancers often experience Xerostomia symptoms, which typically resolve after the treatment ends. However, chronic dry mouth may occur when the toxicity of chemo drugs or radiation damages the salivary glands.

 

What You Can Do About It

The most pressing dental concern for patients is the effect of dry mouth on teeth. As we’ve discussed, saliva plays an important part in keeping your tooth enamel intact and healthy, so if left untreated, prolonged Xerostomia can lead to increased bacteria, plaque, and tooth decay.

However, the good news is that it is a very treatable condition. The top strategies are also easy to implement, including:

  • Adequate hydration to help keep the mouth moist
  • Use sugar-free gum, candy, or mints to stimulate saliva production
  • Leave a room vaporizer on at night to add moisture to the air
  • Use an over-the-counter artificial saliva substitute

If a dry mouth is bothering you, ask us at your next appointment and we’ll recommend a solution to help you keep your mouth and teeth healthy.