I was watching TV over the weekend and saw several separate ads promoting fresh breath, nice smiles, and a dating site. The key concept of the dating site was all about getting a second date. It stressed in a variety of ways that the first date was not a big deal, but having a connection good enough to warrant a second date was huge!
It made me wonder how many people go out for a first date, but don't make it to a second. And how many of those ‘failed’ dates are related to bad breath?
Studies show that half of adults have had bad breath at some time in their lives, and I bet the number is actually far larger than that. There are lots of reasons why people get bad breath. Many are harmless, although annoying, and others are an important warning of much bigger problems.
- Garlic, onions, and coffee are perhaps the things we most commonly associate with bad breath. Of course there are many other problem foods and beverages, but these probably deserve their bad reputation. Yes, what we eat does affect our breath. So if you’re trying to make a second date a reality, you might want to pay attention to what you eat on your first date!
- Tobacco use is another frequent cause of problems. I suspect we all know smoking isn’t good for us, but some people don’t realize it’s also a cause of stained teeth and bad breath. Further, it reduces people’s sense of taste and smell, so they aren’t even aware of the impact it has on how their breath smells!
- Most bad breath happens thanks to hundreds of types of bacteria that naturally live in our mouths. When we eat, they do too, and often leave bad smelling waste behind. And of course, what we eat sometimes helps determine how those waste products smell….
- A related issue is if your mouth often feels dry, you might not be creating enough saliva. Saliva is essential to help “rinse out” your mouth. Without enough “spit”, your mouth isn’t lubricated, setting the stage for waste products to collect and smell. Dry mouth can be caused by medications, by breathing through your mouth, and sometimes also with age, as the quality and quantity of saliva changes. What can make it worse is that people who struggle with a dry mouth or bad breath often resort to mouth washes that contain lots of alcohol. While that may temporarily mask the dry feeling or the odor, the alcohol dries out your mouth and makes the problem worse!
Bad breath that always seems to be present and is often accompanied by a bad taste may be a sign of gum disease. So if you notice either of these problems a lot, it’s extremely important to seek dental care right away – call us! Other mouth infections can also cause bad breath, and we can help you determine if the problem is being caused by a problem in your mouth.
Your bad breath could also be the result of a systemic problem, such as a sinus condition, gastric reflux, diabetes, liver or kidney disease. So if you have a persistent problem and have ruled out dental issues, it is very important for your over-all health for you to see your medical doctor to investigate the issue further.
If you’ve dealt with all of the previously mentioned issues and bad breath is still an occasional problem, what else can you do to prevent it? First, of course, is to make sure you are doing an effective and thorough job of cleaning your mouth. Note I didn’t say “brush and floss”. Thorough brushing, ideally more than once a day, cleaning between your teeth, and scrubbing your tongue are all important facets to effectively cleaning your mouth. Ask us to coach you based on your individual circumstances on this very important issue.
If you wear removable dentures, be sure to thoroughly clean them as well, and clean the tissue underneath where they rest in your mouth. Leaving them out overnight also often helps.
If you have a dry mouth and we haven’t already discussed it with you, talk with us about steps you can take to get more saliva flowing. Eating healthy foods that require lots of chewing often helps and chewing sugar-free gum may also help. There are also over-the-counter products that are designed to help this problem. We can recommend the appropriate choices for your situation. If you are taking medications, talk with your doctor about your dry mouth. It may be possible to change your medications and find one equally effective that doesn’t reduce your saliva flow.
Eliminating smoking is a given. I know for most people that isn’t easy, but it really will change the health of your mouth as well as the rest of your body!
And if you’ve done everything else I’ve mentioned, and you really want to get a second date, using an alcohol-free mouthwash on an occasional basis may help. It may dislodge some of the bacteria and debris in your mouth and improve the situation for a short term “fix”.
And who knows, maybe the second date will result in a lifetime of happiness! And perhaps effective care will result in a lifetime of good oral health! There’s a win – win!