Halitosis is no laughing matter for the millions of Americans embarrassed by their breath. Here, Edmond, OK, dentist Dr. Damon R. Johnson, DDS, offers answers to common questions about what causes bad breath. Spoiler alert: poor oral hygiene isn’t the only culprit!
Q: How does sleeping with an open mouth contribute to bad breath?
Edmond Dentist Dr. Damon R. Johnson, DDS: If you sleep with your mouth open, it dries out and can’t wash away any bacteria hiding inside. People with allergies and sinus issues often have bad breath because they are nighttime mouth breathers. Dry mouth is also caused by certain medications.
Q: Does smoking really cause bad breath?
Edmond, OK, Dentist Dr. Damon R. Johnson, DDS: Yes, unfortunately both smoking and using smokeless tobacco products are guaranteed to give you bad breath. Both of these products contribute to mouth odor by decreasing the salivary glands’ output. The only way to combat tobacco-related halitosis is to quit altogether.
Q: What causes a white coating on the tongue?
Edmond Dentist Dr. Damon R. Johnson, DDS: A white coating on the tongue is caused by a buildup of sulfur compounds and other bacteria. These deposits get stuck to the surface of the tongue, resulting in mild to severe halitosis. It’s caused by poor oral hygiene, dehydration, dry mouth, alcohol use, fever, and smoking.
Q: Is it possible to get rid of bad breath caused by acid reflux?
Edmond, OK, Dentist Dr. Damon R. Johnson, DDS: The acid that results from gastric reflux is not only uncomfortable, but also causes foul-smelling breath. Unfortunately, it’s not as easy to get rid of as halitosis caused by poor oral hygiene. Fortunately, there are medications that can control gastric reflux thereby reducing this unpleasant side effect.
Q: Why is it so difficult to get rid of bad breath caused by garlic and onions?
Edmond Dentist Dr. Damon R. Johnson, DDS: Certain foods – like garlic and onions – release gases during digestion that get into the bloodstream and eventually the lungs. Once in the lungs, the smell is released as we speak and breathe. This type of bad breath cannot simply be brushed or rinsed away. Other foods, including dairy and sugar, create the perfect environment for bacterial growth.