Have you ever noticed that your mouth is dry reasonably often? If you have also heard you have bad breath, then there may be a connection.
Bad breath can come from one or more causes ranging from poor hygiene, disease, throat infections, and even food stuck in your teeth.
It also happens to be a symptom of a condition called dry mouth (xerostomia).
If dry mouth and bad breath go hand and hand for you, there is help. Here’s what you need to know about your saliva and your breath.
Dry Mouth: What is It?
If you have ever woken up in the morning with a dry mouth, then you know that it just doesn’t feel right. Usually, you re-hydrate and start to feel better.
But if dry mouth is a regular occurrence for you, then you may have a symptom called xerostomia.
When you have xerostomia, your salivary glands malfunction and don’t produce the saliva needed to keep your mouth covered. For most people, it is a side effect of prescription medication. Common antihistamines, decongestants, pain medications, and blood pressure medications all list dry mouth as a potential symptom.
Dry mouth can also come with aging. The combination of the aging body along with side effects of medications and long-term health problems are the most common culprits.
Long-term health problems can include diabetes, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, and autoimmune diseases.
If you are a cancer patient, then you probably know these symptoms all too well. Radiation around your head or neck can cause temporary or even permanent damage to your salivary glands.
Dry mouth is common. But does dry mouth cause bad breath?
Dry Mouth and Bad Breath: The Connection
It all comes down to your saliva.
Your saliva plays a vital role in keeping your mouth a healthy place to be. It neutralizes the acids created by bacteria, which protects your teeth. It also washes away food particles for extra cleaning action (and aids in digestion). Saliva also inhibits bacteria growth.
Bacteria and food are two considerable contributors to bad breath.
Bacteria Causes Bad Breath
Bacteria are the most common cause of bad breath, which is why saliva (and proper oral hygiene) are so important. When you have dry mouth, your saliva production changes and the bacteria in your mouth fluctuate with it.
The bacterial microbes in your mouth get their sustenance from left-behind food particles as well as dead cells (yum). Well-fed microbes produce a sulfur compound. When you smell bad breath, you smell that compound – the waste of the bacteria living in your mouth (ew).
When you have more bacteria feasting in your mouth, they emit more of the sulfur compound. It’s the difference between less-than-fresh breath and ungodly terrible breath.
Brushing your teeth and flossing regularly helps mask the bacteria, but if you have dry mouth, it won’t entirely fix the problem.
As tempting as it may be, it’s also important to remember that you don’t want to get rid of all the bacteria.
The bacterial make-up of your mouth is a delicate balance, and not all bacteria give off smelly gas. Research suggests there’s no one type of bacterium that is the single culprit of bad breath, and there are around 1,000 species of identified bacteria that live their best lives in human mouths.
Food Particles in Your Teeth Can Cause Odor
Saliva helps remove the rest of your food from your teeth, which protects your breath. When you have dry mouth, its harder for your mouth to get rid of the particles on its own.
When those food particles get stuck in your teeth, it can cause odors. The smell is the food decaying, and it gets worse unless you get rid of the food.
Brushing and flossing remove the food particles to prevent them from hanging around for too long. But there’s still more food there than there should be for more prolonged periods thanks to your lack of saliva.
How to Get Rid of Dry Mouth and Bad Breath
If dry mouth is the primary cause of your bad breath, your first step is to identify the culprit of your dry mouth.
When the cause is a medication or disease, then there’s not much you can do beyond managing the symptoms. You should, however, let your doctor know what’s going on. They might want to talk about changing your dosage or switching medications.
What everyone can do, however, is take steps to avoid making dry mouth worse.
First, don’t smoke or chew tobacco because it exacerbates the problem. It is also a good idea to drink water throughout the day and limit your caffeine intake to keep your mouth wet.
If you have a long-term dry mouth issue, consider using saliva substitutes. These are available over the counter, but your dentist or doctor can recommend products as well.
You should also skip any alcohol-based antibacterial mouthwashes. No one bacterium creates terrible breath, and the alcohol dries your mouth out even further. Instead, use a dry mouth-friendly mouth wash. It will keep your mouth hospitable and protect you from tooth decay caused by bacteria eating your enamel.
Finally, brush and floss regularly. If saliva is a recurring issue, ask your dentist if you need a prescription fluoride toothpaste and rinse. These protect your teeth and enamel, which is critical for chronic dry mouth.
And don’t forget to visit your dentist twice a year. You need to know early if your dry mouth begins to impact your teeth and gum health.
By taking care of your dry mouth, you will do wonders for your breath. It’s the real two-in-one solution to bad breath.
Kick Bad Breath in the Salivary Glands
Dry mouth and bad breath go hand-in-hand because your saliva is also your food processor and bacteria regulator.
If your dry mouth is the result of a prescription side effect or long-term disease, talk to your doctor so that they know what side effects you are experiencing. You may decide to work together to change your dosage.
Remember, you don’t need to deal with dry mouth all on your own. Make an appointment with Cherry Creek Dental to learn about the dry mouth products available to pick up the slack for your salivary glands.