Bad Breath 101: Identifying the Causes of this Oral Malady

Like tooth decay, another common oral health problem around the world is halitosis, of what is commonly known as bad breath.

According to statistics, as much as one in every four Americans experience this oral malady.

While popping those breath mints and practice of good oral hygiene should be enough to keep your breath fresh, it is still important to know what causes that stinky breath to begin with.

Poor Oral Hygiene

Poor oral hygiene is the number one cause of bad breath. If you don’t brush your teeth well, plaque can accumulate and harden into tartar. The rough surface of tartar promotes further plaque accumulation. In addition, you’ll also have food stuck between your teeth that can rot over time.

The numerous bacteria in plaque combined with the rotting bits of food in your mouth cause the unpleasant odor.

Practicing good oral hygiene is the only solution in this case. Be sure to brush your teeth every after meal, and go to your dentist regularly for check-up and professional cleaning.

Certain Foods and Spices

Aside from poor oral hygiene, another common cause of bad breath is the food you eat. Food with strong smell and flavor are usually the culprit. These include garlic, onions, cheese, and soda to name a few. Garlic and onions, in particular can cause bad breath right after consuming them.

You can get rid of the odor by brushing and flossing, but only temporarily. They continue to produce the bad odor long after you’ve eaten them because they get absorbed in the bloodstream and get expelled from the body through the lungs.

Therefore, the best way to prevent bad breath caused by these foods is to reduce your consumption as much as possible.

Dry Mouth

Dry mouth, or what dentists call xerostomia, is caused by reduced salivary flow. It can be due to smoking, medications, problems with the salivary glands, or even sleeping with your mouth wide open.

The saliva is the mouth’s natural cleanser, given its ability to wash away bacteria and their acids. If your mouth is dry, bacteria can accumulate and the acids they generate can cause tooth decay. And needless to say, a decayed tooth does not smell so good.

Your dentist can manage this by prescribing saliva substitutes, or by asking you to take sugar-free gum or increase your fluid intake. If you are a smoker, you will be advised to quit smoking.

Systemic Diseases

Certain systemic conditions can also have bad breath as one of its manifestations. These include diabetes, liver diseases, kidney disorders, respiratory problems, cancers, and GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease).

Problems of the upper respiratory tract, for instance, produce sputum that can be coughed up into the oral cavity, causing halitosis.

If your dentist identifies systemic problem as the cause, he or she will refer you to a physician for proper management.

Malnutrition

Starvation, whether intentional or not, can cause bad breath due to the breakdown of certain chemicals as the body tries to desperately cope up with the lack of available energy source from food. If this is the cause, you will be advised to eat right.

If you have bad breath, don’t hesitate to talk to your dentist about it. Your dentist can help identify what’s causing this problem and devise a treatment plan that will help get rid of it.

For more tips and advice on how to prevent or eliminate bad breath, check out this article.

Types of Orthodontic Retainers

An orthodontic retainer is an appliance that keeps your teeth in place after treatment with dental braces. For more information about orthodontic retainers, check out this article. In here, we will discuss the different types retainers your dentist may recommend and how each one work.

Removable Orthodontic Retainers

Retainers are classified as either removable or fixed. Which one work better depends on the wants, needs, and compliance of the patient.

Removable retainers are more commonly used. They usually consist of plastic or a combination of wire and acrylic material. The wire may run across the front or back surface of the teeth.

The main advantage of removable retainers is that they much easier to clean, owing to the fact that you can remove them from your teeth whenever you want to.

The disadvantage, however, is that it relies on patient compliance and there’s a chance that some patients won’t wear it as prescribed by their orthodontist. It also gets lost easily, especially you if leave it lying around and wrapped in a tissue. You can have it replaced, but you will have to spend as much as $300 for the new one.

There two most common popular examples of removable retainers are the Hawley and Essix retainers.

Hawley appliance is probably the most common type of retainer you see. It is a combination of acrylic and metal wires.

The wires are formed into clasps, which are then anchored to the acrylic body that sits on the palate. These clasps grasp the teeth to keep the retainer secured in place.

Hawley retainers are adjustable, and can thus be used to further improve the alignment of your teeth.

Essix retainers look pretty much like Invisalign aligners, and are therefore most suitable for those who have had that type of orthodontic treatment.

These retainers are made of clear plastic, and hence cannot be seen when worn. They are constructed by your orthodontist using a mold of your teeth and a vacuum appliance. Unlike Hawley retainers, Essix retainers are non-adjustable.

Fixed Orthodontic Retainers

Fixed retainers, on the other hand, are usually made of a thin wire that runs across the back of the teeth.

It is bonded or cemented in place using the same material applied on your brackets. Compared to removable retainers, fixed retainers are quite more difficult to clean, so special cleaning aids are prescribed to keep the both the retainer and your teeth free from plaque buildup.

But their biggest advantage is that they tend to produce better outcome because they hold your teeth in place 24/7.

In short, patient compliance is not a problem. Another advantage is that since the wire is at the back of the teeth, it will appear like you’re not wearing a retainer at all.

Regardless of the type of orthodontic retainer that you use, it is advised that you do routine dental visits to ensure periodic maintenance of the appliance and also to check if your retainer is working or you need another one.

Interesting Facts About Dental Sealants

In the past few years, more and more individuals are starting to realize the importance of getting dental sealants on their teeth.

A dental sealant is a barrier placed on tooth surfaces that are most susceptible to decay.

These include, most especially, the biting surface of the molars, which has lots of small grooves where bacteria can accumulate and cause destruction.

If you wonder what dental sealants are, here are some basic (and interesting) facts about sealants and how they can help protect the teeth.

Dental sealants protect the teeth from cavities

Even if you brush your teeth thoroughly twice a day, it doesn’t mean that you are safe from developing cavities.

It’s simply because the bristles of your toothbrush don’t reach the small pits and grooves on your teeth, making them an ideal niche for bacteria to grow, multiply, and wreak havoc.

Dental sealants help solve this problem by covering these small grooves with a tooth-colored plastic material. This blocks the accumulation of bacteria and in turn, their ability to attack and destroy the tooth enamel.

Dental sealants are suitable for any age

Contrary to what many people believe, dental sealants are not only for children.

While it is true that they are done mostly in children, sealants are actually are suitable for any age because the permanent teeth of older patients are also riddled with small grooves that need to be covered.

Dental sealants are quick and painless to apply

Applying dental sealants is much faster compared to putting restorations, be it complex or simple restorations.

The procedure is also absolutely pain-free, making it a very suitable procedure even for very young children.

Unlike restorations where the dentist has to use a dental drill to remove tooth structure, sealants only require cleaning and drying of the tooth surface so that the material will stick tightly to it. The entire procedure will only take a couple of minutes.

Dental sealants last long

Dental sealants can last for years depending on the patient’s oral hygiene practices and eating habits.

But then again, this extra layer of protection should not make you think that going to the dentist is not needed anymore.

In fact, you still have to do regular visits so your dentist can check if your sealants are still intact or if they need to be replaced already.

Dental sealants will help you save money

In addition to being absolutely fast and painless, dental sealants are also much cheaper than restorations. And the best thing is, most dental insurance companies include sealants in the list of treatments they cover.

Why spend on expensive tooth fillings when you can prevent the need for them in the first place – at a fraction of the cost!

While sealants can indeed do a great job in protecting your teeth, getting one should not make you forget that good oral hygiene practices, regular dental visits, and healthy are also critical in maintaining the health of your teeth and oral cavity.

Quick Fix for Some Common Dental Problems

Dental problems can occur at any time of the day.

When there’s dental emergency, getting dental care as soon as possible is advised.

Oftentimes, however, you have to wait for hours or even days before your dentist can see and evaluate your dental problem.

This is why it is important to learn some quick fixes, and here are some of them.

Sensitivity

Common causes of tooth sensitivity include exposed tooth roots, often due to advanced form of gum disease.

In such case, avoid using toothpastes with baking soda and phosphates because they’re abrasive and can thus make your teeth even more sensitive.

Opt instead for toothpastes that are especially-formulated for sensitive teeth.

After brushing your teeth, dispense a small amount of this toothpaste and apply it directly on the exposed tooth roots.

Tooth Erosion

Eating acidic foods can be quite detrimental for your smile.

When acid comes in contact with the tooth enamel, it wears down this outer layer of the tooth.

This makes the teeth thinner and weaker. Luckily, you don’t have to stop munching on your favorite fruits and drinks. All you have to do is to change your habit.

For one, when you drink acidic beverages, use a straw instead of sipping it directly from the glass or can. That way, you minimize the contact between your teeth and the acid.

For other acidic foods, be sure to rinse you mouth with water after eating to wash away the acid and prevent tooth erosion.

Bad Breath

While spices like garlic and onion add lots of flavors to your dishes, they are also the most common culprits for bad breath.

To eliminate the foul odor, you must also pay attention to your tongue whenever you brush your teeth. Scrape or rake your tongue after brushing.

Brushing your tongue won’t help remove bad breath, as it only compacts all the bacteria and debris.

It is also recommended that you use a mouthwash, but look for ones that has a natural formula and does not contain any alcohol or triclosan.

Chronic use of mouthwashes containing these ingredients can only cause problems that are more severe than bad breath.

Alcohol, for instance, can irritate the gums and may also increase one’s risk to oral cancer, according to some studies.

Knocked out Teeth

A knocked out teeth, or what dentists call an avulsed tooth, frequently occurs as a result of accidents or sports injuries.

It is when the tooth gets completely displaced out of its socket. This causes a tear in the periodontal ligament, or the structure that attaches the tooth to the bone.

But the good news is, the teeth remain alive for a couple of minutes and can therefore be replanted by the dentist back into your mouth.

But while on your way to the dental clinic, pick up the tooth immediately and wash it under running water.

Store it in milk, or better yet, put it on the inside of your cheek and let it bathe with your saliva.

Do this and if your tooth is replanted early enough, it can go back to its normal state.

Take note that while all the given tips above work, they are nothing more than a quick fix and not a permanent one. You still need to see your dentist for a more permanent solution.

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Management of Oral Habits

As we have learned from our previous blog post, oral habits are pretty common especially in young kids. We’ve also discussed how these habits can cause unsightly changes to teeth and/or jaws.

In this second article, we will now focus on treatment.

Thumb Sucking:

Thumb sucking is caused by many different things, and it’s important to determine what the underlying issue is before rendering any treatment or intervention.

First of all, you should know that thumb sucking is actually a self-soothing habit for kids, but it can be detrimental to the alignment of the teeth in the long run.

In most cases, kids simply grow out of it without any intervention, while others just can’t bring themselves to stop it. Extreme cases, meanwhile, can be solved only with the help of a child therapist.

Discontinuation should occur spontaneously and not forced upon the child. Once the habit is completely stopped, only then can definitive treatment be rendered.

The sooner or earlier the habit is stopped, the more likely the changes that occurred will correct itself. One way to do so is by counseling the kid.

The success of counseling depends on the kid’s level of understanding – that is, his or her ability to understand the troubles thumb sucking can cause. Counseling is therefore more appropriate for older kids.

Besides counseling, another approach is the so-called reminder therapy. This is for kids who need additional help in stopping the habit. It involves putting a cue – can be a bandage, a bitter substance, etc. – on the patient’s finger to serve as reminder that they should not put their finger into their mouth. But be sure to emphasize over and over again that the cue is a just reminder and not some sort of punishment.

Also, praising the kid for stopping the habit can help a lot. The reminder therapy may also be combined with a reward system, wherein if the kid is able to discontinue the habit within a specified amount of time, he or she will be given a reward. If either counseling and reminder therapy proves to be ineffective, only then will installation of preventive appliances be necessary.

Tongue Thrusting:

Management of tongue thrusting comes in two methods.

The first one involves the use of an appliance similar to a mouth-guard or it can also be a more permanent appliance adjusted by the dentist on a regular basis.

The other approach is by training the patient to change his or her swallowing pattern. This is achieved through a series of exercises called the orofacial myofunctional therapy. Such method sorts of “re-educate” the muscles into following the right swallowing pattern. The orofacial myofunctional therapy offers high and long-term success rate.

Lip Sucking:

There really isn’t much we can do to stop the lip sucking habit; nonetheless, steroids and antibiotic ointments may be applied to provide relief on irritated areas.

Bruxism:

Intervention is usually not necessary since most kids outgrow bruxism. But for those who don’t, there are a couple of treatments that can help. These include fabrication of mouthguards, performing stress-reducing exercises, removal of interferences on biting surfaces of the teeth, and referral to appropriate specialists to rule out any medical or psychological problems.

The first step is consulting your dentist to determine which of these options would be most appropriate for you or your kid’s case.

Nail Biting

The simplest, most practical solution to this habit is applying nail polish to discourage the practice. Behavioral therapy may also be helpful, but kids would probably prefer nail polish since it can also make their nails look attractive. And since nail biting has been linked to obsessive-compulsive behaviors, severe cases of this habit – which, in some cases could also involve finger biting – may therefore require the use of some anti-depressants.

Oral Habits and How They Affect Your Entire Dentition

Oral habits are commonly observed mainly among babies, young children, and in adults as well. Not only do these habits cause unsightly damage to the teeth and/or jaws, but they can also be expensive to repair or dangerous if left untreated.

That is why it is important to address any undesirable oral habit as soon as possible. Intervention can be something as simple as patient education and behavior modification but oftentimes, the use of dental appliances is necessary.

With all these in mind, we have come up with this list of most common oral habits and why they should be discontinued if you want to keep that nice, sparkly smile.

Thumb Sucking:

Thumb sucking, or finger sucking in general, is the most common oral habit especially in young children although they tend to outgrow it at about age five.

This habit, especially if it has persisted for long, can cause problems such as (but not limited to) open bite of the front teeth, flared upper incisors, tipping of lower incisors, misalignment of the future permanent teeth, and deformities of the roof of the mouth.

These problems vary in intensity, and are dependent on factors such as the aggressiveness, duration, and frequency of the habit and the position of the thumb in the mouth.

Lip Sucking:

Like thumb sucking, lip suck is another common oral habit in young children.

It often results to chapped, inflamed lips. Severe lip sucking, wherein the lower lip is tucked behind the upper front teeth, causes the upper front teeth to flare out and the lower front teeth to tilt towards the tongue side. This results to these teeth not being in contact with each other when the mouth closes.

Tongue Thrusting:

Tongue thrusting, otherwise known as reverse or immature swallow, is characterized by the tongue moving in a forward position towards the upper central incisors during swallowing.

Infants exhibit this habit up to six months of age at which point they lose this reflex to give them the ability to chew solid foods. But if it persists, tongue thrusting can lead to open bite and other orthodontic problems.

Bruxism:

Bruxism pertains to the non-functional grinding of teeth, which usually occurs during sleep. It affects patients of all ages.

Children, in particular, also grind their teeth even when awake. This habit is caused by a myriad of factors, which include:

1) systemic factors like stress, nutritional deficiencies, metabolic disorders, allergies, mental retardation, and musculoskeletal problems,

2) local factors include high restorations that interfere with biting and chewing.

Grinding erodes the tooth enamel and therefore results to increased susceptibility to decay and faster wear of teeth. It also leads to jaw pain.

Chewing Ice:

Munching on ice cubes may seem like a harmless habit, but unfortunately it can crack, chip the enamel of your tooth. That’s because although the enamel is the hardest substance on our body, it is not designed for crunching ice.

Nail Biting:

Biting on something that you’re not supposed to bite is not good for your teeth. Your nails are no exception. Aside from potentially cracking or chipping the tooth enamel and restorations (if any), it can also expose you to the bacteria that thrives under your nails. Infection can occur, and while it is not necessarily bad for your teeth, it is bad for your overall health.