Bad Breath (Halitosis)
Medically referred to as halitosis, bad breath refers to when food debris remaining in the mouth collect bacteria that dies and releases a sulfuric compound. Certain foods like garlic and onions even release chemicals into the bloodstream that are absorbed by the lungs and breathed out. So, over the counter products are ineffective because they only mask the odor due to their inability to remove the bacteria.
Causes of Bad Breath:
- Dry mouth due to decreased production of self-cleaning saliva
- Tobacco products
- Periodontal (gum) disease
- Certain medications including central nervous system agents, antihistamines, antipsychotics, anticholinergics, and narcotics
As mentioned, bath breath can be the sign of some major health conditions. Here are characteristic bad breath odors associated with some of these illnesses:
- Respiratory tract infection
- Kidney ailment
- Liver failure
- Acute rheumatic fever
- Lung abscess
- Liver cirrhosis
- Kidney failure
- Diphtheria, dysentery, measles, pneumonia, scarlet fever, tuberculosis
Caring for Bad Breath:
Maintaining a regular dental hygiene routine of brushing and flossing is the best way to control bad breath. This is especially important for anyone with dental appliances such as permanent retainers, braces, or dentures. If that doesn’t help, ask your dentist if it could be linked back to certain foods in your diet or medications you take.
If it is found that the odor is the result of gum disease, your dentist will have to professionally clean your gum tissues and follow up with medicated rinses. As stated before, regular over-the-counter mouth rinses only mask the smell and are generally ineffective on bad breath. So, your dentist will most likely prescribe something stronger like Zytex. However, if you and your dentist rule out diet and poor hygiene, you will be referred to a specialist to determine a possibly more systemic cause of the odor.
Dry mouth (xerostomia) is a fairly common condition that refers to any time someone experience that diminished saliva production. Unfortunately, saliva is your body’s first natural defense against plaque buildup, so those who chronically suffer from dry mouth are more prone to oral health related problems. In most cases, dry mouth is a side-effect of a medication. In addition, certain foods, tobacco use, and typical aging use can contribute to the problem.
While dry mouth normally only causes bad breath, it can lead to more serious problems like burning tongue syndrome, chronic thirst, or even difficult speaking. Treatment depends on your personal condition and medical history, so see a dentist if you feel you are suffering from chronic dry mouth.
Canker and Cold Sores
While both canker sores and cold sores are painful conditions often confused for each other, they are completely unrelated. Canker sores typically occur on the inside of your mouth and on the gum lines. They appear as light-colored sores with a red border. There are no clear causes, but things like stress, fatigue, hormones, or facial trauma are often the culprits. The best way to treat them is with patience and topical rinses or anesthetics to dull the pain. On the other hand, cold sores are caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV) and are referred to as fever blisters. They occur on the outside of the mouth, usually around the lips. Unlike canker sores, cold sores are contagious. The best treatment for these over-the-counter topical creams or an antiviral medication prescribed by a doctor.
Teeth Grinding (Bruxism)
Bruxism, commonly referred to as teeth grinding, is a common habit. It most often stems from an inability to cope with stress or anxiety, but in rare cases can be linked to certain diseases of your facial nerves. While it is often seen as harmless, it can affect your bite relationship and potentially do damage to your teeth and jaw.
When your teeth grind against each other, it can cause abrasion to the surface of your teeth that can lead to premature aging, loosening, and hypersensitivity. It can also lead to chronic jaw and facial pain. Symptoms of bruxism include a dull morning headache, tight or painful jaw muscles, damaged teeth, swelling, worn teeth, or small dents in your tongue.
The treatment plan for bruxism depends on the underlying cause. If it is stress related, a dentist or doctor may suggest different ways to relax. If it is related to dental problems, a dentist will simply realign your bite with crowns or reshaping of teeth. Most commonly, a night guard is worn to prevent subconscious grinding at night.
Occurrences of oral cancer are increasing each year with 132 new individuals diagnosed a day in the U.S. alone. If oral cancer is not caught in time, it spreads to facial and neck tissues and leads to pain and disfigurement. According to the American Cancer Society, men are twice as likely to develop oral cancer as women, and this only increases after the age of 50. Certain risk factors can increase your chance of oral cancer like using tobacco products, consuming large quantities of alcohol, a family history of cancer, frequent prolonged sun exposure, and HPV.
Oral cancer is defined as the uncontrollable growth of cells that invade and cause damage to surrounding tissue within the mouth. It can occur anywhere, but most commonly appears on the tongue. It appears as a persistent sore or growth in the mouth. Symptoms can include white, red, or speckled patches in the mouth, unexplained numbness or bleeding, chronic sore throat, ear pain, or feeling like something is caught in the back of your throat. In the beginning stages, these symptoms are not always painful, so spotting or diagnosing becomes difficult. This lack of early detection is what usually leads to the disease progressing beyond treatment.
Fewer than half of those diagnosed with oral cancer will survive, so early detection is key. Avoiding tobacco, alcohol, over exposure to the sun, and maintaining a healthy diet are the best defenses in staving off oral cancer. Regular trips to the dentist can help keep your mouth healthy and spot any warning signs earlier than self-detection can.