Dental Problems and Bad Breath

Can Cavities Cause Bad Breath?

If you've been avoiding a trip to the dentist out of fear of getting bad news about the state of your teeth, stop putting it off. Not only can allowing too much time to pass between dental visits further dental problems such as tooth or gum decay, it can also lead to really bad breath.

As you learned on the previous page, bacteria in your mouth cause bad breath by breaking down food left stuck in your teeth. But as bacteria use sugar in your mouth to provide the energy needed to grow and multiply, they produce acid as a waste product [source: Loesche]. The acid lowers the pH level of a tooth's exterior, causing the enamel to dissolve.

Left unchecked, the situation can create a hole in the enamel -- this is your cavity. Without dental intervention, the cavity will worsen. As the tissue inside the tooth continues to decay, the decomposing protein produces foul-smelling gases (such as hydrogen sulfide), and your breath worsens. At that point, the only way to clear up your breath for good is to have the decaying, offending matter removed and the cavity filled.

Gum disease is also frequently to blame for bad breath. In fact, bad breath is a warning sign for gum disease [source: British Dental Health Foundation]. This issue occurs initially as a result of plaque buildup on the teeth. Bacteria in the plaque irritate the gums and cause them to become tender, swollen and prone to bleeding. Foul-smelling gases emitted by the bacteria can also cause bad breath. Eventually, pockets may form between the teeth and gums, and these can become infected, ultimately leading to tooth loss. If you pay attention when you notice that bacteria-induced bad breath, though, you could catch gum disease before it gets to its more advanced stages.

Of course, to help keep your breath in check and to maintain good hygiene when it comes to your teeth and gums, you'll also need to visit your dentist twice a year. Don't be afraid to ask your dentist about your breath -- in fact, your dentist may be the only person you know who will speak truthfully on the matter. In addition to regular checkups, brush your teeth after every meal and before you go to bed to prevent a sugar-fueled explosion of bacteria and harmful acid. If you floss daily, as well, conditions in your mouth should be ideal for good breath.

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