If you knew that bad breath was a sign of periodontal disease - which is one of the causes of heart disease - would you be more inclined to schedule an annual check-up with your dentist?
"Periodontal disease" is another term for gum disease which affects the gums and bones around your teeth. This disease is caused by the accumulation of harmful bacteria, which is not removed by professional cleanings. The bacterial growth and buildup can also result in bad breath.
Dr. Craig Spodak says there are two causes of bad breath: dietary and bacterial. The most common type is dietary, by eating garlic and onions, for example; the other type of bad breath is bacterial – this type can signal something more serious. In this case, harmful bacteria accumulate in the mouth, creating volatile sulfur compounds, causing the odor.
The most harmful type of bacteria live deep inside the gum pockets around teeth that have some gum disease. Teeth that have gum disease have deeper pocketing which blocks beneficial oxygen. Without oxygen, the bacteria grow more harmful and more odor-producing.
Once you have been diagnosed with gum disease, it requires professional help to treat. The best medicine is prevention: this requires brushing at LEAST twice per day, flossing once per day and brushing the tongue. Dr. Spodak also recommends regular dental visits, purchasing a tongue scraper and anti-bacterial mouthwash.
Dr. Spodak says that it's a common problem that many people come to the office not knowing about their bad breath. Since bad breath can signal more serious issues it's important for people to be aware of it.
"Most people don't realize they have bad breath, because our society usually avoids uncomfortable situations of telling someone that their breath does smell. So many people are walking around with periodontal disease and aren't even aware of it because they have not been to their dentist for a check-up. Regular visits should be scheduled twice per year," said Dr. Spodak.