What Does Your Bad Breath Say About Your Health?

Close talkers beware – your breath may be telling people something about your overall health. Bad breath is an occasional fact of life for most people. It might stem from too many onions on that salad at lunch or too much garlic in the spaghetti sauce, but when it is a consistent problem unrelated to a recent meal, it might be wise to seek some answers from your healthcare professional.

Cindy Nunan, DNP, FNP-BC, Nurse Practitioner with Shore Physicians Group in its Northfield office, said, “Bad breath or halitosis is a sign that something else is going on in the mouth, the GI tract or even in the sinuses. Though sometimes it could be a case of less than perfect oral hygiene and not brushing and flossing as recommended, halitosis could stem from a multitude of other factors.”

Bacteria is the culprit

The real issue is that bacteria sits in the mouth and covers the tongue, teeth and gums, Nunan indicated. Bacteria causing halitosis consists of the breakdown of food debris, sugars and proteins. The odor eventually forms from the breakdown of proteins into amino acids, according to Aylikci and Colak, 2013. Treatment of course is directed at the cause. But to prevent halitosis or bad breath make sure to brush after eating and floss daily.

It’s important to note that for ventilator-dependent patients, being vigilant about good oral hygiene is imperative. According to Nunan, oral bacteria can lead to ventilator-associated pneumonia Hua, et al, 2016

What is causing that bad breath?

  1. A dental or periodontal infection-(The infection may increase the amount of bacteria in the mouth, and the result could be halitosis)
  2. Inadequate oral hygiene and extensive plaque build-up
  3. Acid reflux or gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD – (The odors from recently consumed foods may easily make their way back up the esophagus and out the mouth, causing bad breath)
  4. Thrush- (A yeast-like fungus that can form in the mouth)
  5. Medications – (Some cause dry mouth, or some inhaled steroids can cause excessive dry mouth or xerostomia)
  6. Tobacco use (Increases the user’s risk for oral cancer)
  7. Inadequate cleansing of dental appliances or dentures
  8. Strep throat- (May decrease saliva production, which may trigger halitosis)
  9. Oral sexually transmitted diseases
  10. Chronic sinusitis decreases saliva production, triggering halitosis
  11. Reduced access to oral health care will eventually result in halitosis
  12. Certain foods like onions and garlic

Take Some Good Advice

Nunan offers the following suggestions to keep that halitosis or bad breath at bay:

  • Make sure to brush after eating and floss every day.
  • May sure to stay hydrated.
  • Regularly change out your toothbrush.
  • Schedule dental checkups twice a year.
  • If bad breath persists, discuss it with your primary care doctor.

Nurse Practitioner Cindy Nunan, DNP, sees patients at Shore Physicians Group’s Northfield office. To schedule an appointment with Nunan, call 609-365-5300 .