Chronic Bad Breath? It Could Be a Sign of Periodontal Disease

If you’ve ever had bad breath (and most of us have), you know how embarrassing it can be. Often, bad breath is temporary, caused by simple things such as eating something that’s especially pungent — onions or canned tuna, for example. Maybe you forgot to brush, or you had a few too many cups of coffee during the afternoon slump. Colds and sinus infections can also cause bad breath. The one thing all these causes have in common? The bad breath they cause is temporary, and it can be fixed with a little more attention to your oral hygiene.

Chronic bad breath is something else. If you have chronic bad breath, better brushing and flossing isn’t going to provide long-lasting relief. That’s because it’s more than just a few stinky food particles or cold and sinus germs causing the problem. In chronic bad breath, there’s an underlying medical cause. And in many cases, periodontal disease is to blame.

What causes periodontal disease?

Also called gum disease, periodontal disease is caused by a buildup of bacteria in the mouth, especially along the gum line and between your teeth. These bacteria tend to be found in sticky plaque or behind hard tartar deposits in areas that are difficult to clean with brushing and flossing. As they multiply, the bacteria release potent toxins that irritate the gum tissue. In response, the gum tissue moves away from the tooth surface where the bacteria are located, creating a wide pathway for bacteria to reach the lower parts of the tooth surface. This is what’s meant by the term “receding gums.” Over time, the bacteria move all the way down to the root pocket, causing infections that weaken tooth roots and can eventually cause the tooth to fall out. 

Bad breath can occur in a couple of different ways in gum disease. First, the toxins released by the bacteria contain really foul-smelling sulfur compounds. As you breathe out, the sulfur compounds are carried out with your breath. The only way to get rid of the odor is to get rid of the bacteria that are causing it. And second, when the infection reaches the deeper parts of your tooth, pus and other infection-related byproducts can cause additional odors to form.

Treating gum disease

In the very earliest stages of gum disease, you might just need a series of routine cleanings and better brushing and flossing habits to keep the bacterial populations under control. If you have dry mouth, special rinses can help moisten your mouth, so bacteria are washed away more easily. But in more advanced cases of gum disease, you’ll probably need a much deeper cleaning, called a root planing and scaling.

Root planing and scaling use special tools to reach down into the gum pockets where bacteria tend to hide. These bacteria are carefully removed from these tiny pockets, and the root surface is gently scraped to get rid of tartar and to smooth it, so it’s harder for bacteria to cling to the root and cause future infections. Sometimes, antibiotic gels or fluids are used to provide an even deeper cleaning in hard-to-reach areas around the root. These types of cleanings are performed using a local anesthetic to make sure you stay relaxed and comfortable. If you’re really anxious, we can also provide sedation to calm your nerves and even help you doze during your treatment.

Put an end to your bad breath

Chronic bad breath is just one sign of gum disease. Other signs are bleeding gums, swollen or red gums, sore or loose teeth, and a bad or sour taste in your mouth. In its early stages, gum disease might not cause any symptoms at all, which means you might have it and not even know it. Gum disease is common — and it’s also the leading cause of adult tooth loss in the United States. The only way to know for sure if you’ve got periodontal disease is to schedule a routine checkup and cleaning. At Pro Dental, we offer gum disease treatments that can freshen your breath and protect your teeth from future damage. To schedule your exam and cleaning, book an appointment online.

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