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Have Bad Breath? It Might Be a Sign of One of These Problems

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Do you brush and floss your teeth daily, but still find that your breath smells notably foul? Persistent bad breath is not just an annoying problem that makes you feel self-conscious. Oftentimes, it is a sign of a more serious issue. If your bad breath is not abated with thorough brushing and a rinse with mouthwash, make an appointment with your dentist to see which of these possible explanations apply:

Tooth Decay

Most people assume that if they can't see black spots on their teeth and their teeth don't hurt, they don't have tooth decay. Sadly, this is not always the case. Tooth decay can occur between teeth and on the backs of your molars where you're not able to see it without the assistance of fancy dental mirrors or an x-ray machine -- and it does not always cause pain or discomfort if it has not progressed deep enough to irritate your nerve endings. However, tooth decay is caused by bacteria, and the materials these bacteria give off can be pretty stinky, leading to chronic bad breath.

Your dentist will use visual tools like x-rays to check for tooth decay. If decay is found, repairing it with a dental filling or crown (depending on the severity of the decay) should leave your breath a whole lot fresher.

Gum Disease

The same bacteria that cause tooth decay can also infect your gums, leading to the dreaded gingivitis (also known as gum disease). A lot of patients overlook the early signs of gingivitis, which include tender gums and bleeding when brushing. As the infection gets worse, it starts to cause more serious issues like bad breath, pockets in the gums, and loosening teeth.

Your dentist will take a look at your gums, and if gum disease is found, a treatment plan will be customized for you. More minor cases are often treated with oral rinses and a thorough, professional dental cleaning. More severe cases may require gum grafts or the use of antibiotics to treat the infection. In either case, tackling the issue as soon as possible is important, since bad breath will be the least of your worries if gum disease progresses to the point of making your teeth fall out.

Tonsil Stones

Tonsil stones are clumps of food particles, oral bacteria, and hardened mucous that can form in the pockets of your tonsils, which are located at the back of your throat. These stones emit a terrible stench. Sometimes, people cough up the tonsil stones, which look like off-white, little balls. However, just because you're not coughing up tonsil stones does not mean you don't have them.

While dentists don't usually treat tonsil stones, they can take a look at the back of the throat and tell you if you have them. If your dentist does see tonsil stones and feels that they might be to blame for your bad breath, he or she will refer you to an ear, nose and throat doctor for treatment. Tonsil stones don't usually cause any serious health problems other than bad breath, but treatment will be needed to get rid of them and restore your fresh breath. Depending on the severity of your tonsil stones, treatment may include:

  • Extracting the tonsil stones in the doctor's office
  • The doctor showing you how to extract tonsil stones at home with swabs and/or salt water rinses
  • Taking antibiotics to curb the formation of new tonsil stones
  • Surgically removing your tonsils

If your breath wreaks, don't just go on living with this problem. Make an appointment with your dentist to get to the bottom of the cause of your bad breath and begin treating it before the consequences get any worse. If your child has bad breath, consider taking them to a pediatric dentist to check out the issue. You may want to check out the websites of local pediatric dentists, such as http://www.childrensdent.com, to see which one might be right for your child.