Wednesday, April 13, 2011
Bad Breath and Gingivitis
Does this sound familiar to you? My dentist and hygienist mentioned that I had irritated gums as they cleaned my teeth. This is a symptom of gingivitis. Gingivitis can be a stepping stone to major problems in the mouth and gum line. It can lead to periodontal disease, which is a much more serious problem with the potential for actual bone loss. Halitosis (bad breath) could be related to a gingivitis infection as both are caused by bacteria. Red, swollen and/or bleeding gums characterize gingivitis. These symptoms are most evident upon flossing and sometimes from brushing. Bacteria cause gingivitis. And bacteria are considered to be responsible for bad breath. Sometimes, I could even see the bloodstains that the hygienist quietly wiped away with a towel. It was embarrassing enough to know that I wasn't controlling my gingivitis problem, but to know that she was actually trying not to make a big deal out of it was troubling. I knew my dentist was concerned because she gave me a bottle of alcohol based mouthwash to try and mentioned that she wanted to see how I looked next time. I don't like using it; there is too much alcohol and the taste is not very pleasant. Alcohol may also dry the mucous membranes in the mouth. The Problem Bacteria can stick to your teeth and secrete acid onto them contributing to cavity formation. They can also infect the gums, particularly around the gum line, causing gingivitis. This can manifest initially as bleeding and irritated gums. Having a lot of uncontrolled bacteria multiplying in the mouth may also lead to bad breath, but there is a natural and normal amount of bacteria in the mouth, and you will never completely get rid of them all, nor would you want to. Theory has it that it is actually the anaerobic bacteria that live in the tongue and throat that produce sulfur that in turn produce hard to get rid of bad breath. These anaerobes create VSCs or volatile sulfur compounds. One type is the familiar rotten egg smell. There are other odors coming from VSCs as well. These sulfur-producing bacteria may feed on certain foods, like coffee, alcohol and meats. A gingivitis problem can offer a way for bacteria to easily enter your blood stream and that can lead to additional problems. Systemic infections could come from this. Gingivitis can be something that makes your gums bleed easily in a mild case or it can be the root of deep gum recession, leading to bone loss in the worse case scenarios. (Periodontal disease) Loss of gum line can be discouraging. A friend of mind once described the process as, “getting long in the tooth". Sometimes, people experience this problem by brushing too hard. TIP: Using a soft bristled toothbrush with the type of motion that your hygienist recommends may help prevent eroded gum lines. Treatment and Prevention Had you ever heard of under-the-gum cleanings? This could be part of the protocol your dentist might invoke, should you develop periodontal disease. If you know people that have had an under-the-gum cleaning; they may tell you that it is not very pleasant. Your dentist can deal with this problem in a variety of ways. However, prevention probably is the best option. Include good flossing and brushing habits - see your dentist for details. And you could add a non-alcohol based mouthwash alternative to your regimen. I'm currently using a special toothbrush that uses vibration to clean the teeth. This device does a better job than a regular toothbrush in keeping my teeth clean. It does take a little while to get used to because of the vibration. It makes many, many vibrations per second. This helps to give it such wonderful cleaning abilities. Don't feel sad if you have excellent oral health habits but you still have bad breath. This is common and many people experience this same situation. Oral health products that don't contain sodium lauryl sulfates or artificial flavors that can still kill the bacteria that cause bad breath without using harsh alcohol or tough chemicals may be helpful. I am not a dentist. This article is for information purposes only. This article is not meant for diagnosis, treatment or prevention nor is it meant to give advice. If you have or suspect you have gingivitis, periodontal disease or any other dental problems, visit your dentist for a consultation.