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Poor dental hygiene and periodontal disease

Poor dental hygiene and periodontal disease can also be a source of bad breath. If you don’t brush and floss daily, food particles remain in your mouth,
collecting bacteria that can emit chemicals, such as hydrogen sulphide, the same compound that gives rotten eggs their characteristic smell. A colourless,
sticky film of bacteria (plaque) forms on your teeth and if not brushed away, plaque can irritate your gums (gingivitis) and cause tooth decay. Eventually,
plaque-filled pockets can form between your teeth and gums (periodontitis) worsening this problem, and your breath. The microscopic uneven surface of the
tongue also can trap bacteria that produce odours. And dentures that aren’t cleaned regularly or don’t fit properly can harbour odour-causing bacteria and
food particles.

A condition called dry mouth (xerostomia) can contribute to bad breath because production of saliva is decreased. Saliva helps cleanse your mouth, removing
particles that may cause bad odours. Dry mouth naturally occurs during sleep, leading to morning breath, and is even more of a problem if you sleep with
your mouth open. Some medications can lead to a chronic dry mouth, as can a problem with your salivary glands.

Smoking dries out your mouth, causes its own unpleasant mouth odour, stains your teeth, reduces your ability to taste foods, and irritates the gums.
Tobacco users are also more likely to have periodontal disease.

How sugar affects your teeth

Eating sugar is a major cause of tooth decay. But when and how you eat it can be just as important in keeping teeth healthy, as how much sugar you eat. The
enamel that protects your teeth is constantly exposed to acids, when you consume sugary foods or beverages frequently throughout the day. Hard boiled
sweets, throat lozenges and peppermints that contain sugar are especially harmful because they dissolve slowly in your mouth. Eating sugary foods before
you go to bed can be the most damaging (especially if you don’t brush your teeth afterwards) because you don’t produce as much saliva when you sleep and
the sugar stays in your mouth overnight. Sugary or starchy foods eaten with a meal are less harmful to your teeth than when they’re eaten alone, possibly
because the production of saliva, which washes away the sugar and bacteria, is increased.

The tooth of the matter

One in 10 people have a tendency to accumulate tartar quickly. Tartar is plaque in a hardened form that is more damaging and difficult to remove. Using
anti-tartar toothpastes and mouthwashes, and spending extra time brushing the teeth near the salivary glands (the inside of the lower front teeth and the
outside of the upper back teeth) may slow the development of new tartar. You should also always be sure your toothpaste contains fluoride, the most common
active ingredient in toothpaste, which prevents cavities. If you have teeth that are sensitive to heat, cold, and pressure, you may want to try a special
toothpaste for sensitive teeth. But you’ll still need to talk to your dentist about your sensitivity because it may indicate a more serious problem, such
as a cavity or nerve inflammation.

When to see the dentist

It is vital to schedule regular dental visits, generally once or twice a year, to prevent gum disease and other oral-health problems. Remember, early
detection and treatment of problems with your gums, teeth and mouth can help ensure a lifetime of good oral health. So be sure to contact your dentist if
you notice any signs or symptoms that could suggest dental-health problems, such as:

  • Red, tender or swollen gums

  • Gums that bleed when you brush or floss

  • Gums that begin pulling away from your teeth

  • Loose permanent teeth

  • Changes in the way your top and bottom teeth align with each other

  • Unusual sensitivity to hot and cold

  • Persistent bad breath or an unusual taste in your mouth

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