Is Your Bad Breath a Sign of a Bigger Problem?

Do you suffer from chronic bad breath? Referred to as halitosis, what you consider an embarrassing and unfortunate situation may actually be an indication of a more serious problem. There are several causes of bad breath, from consuming certain foods and drinks and smoking cigarettes to a laundry list of health problems. According to a recent article from Colgate, nearly half of the population experiences halitosis due to reasons outside of external smelly factors (food, tobacco, etc), and of those only about 10 percent is caused from other health issues, like diabetes, liver, and kidney diseases. Many people are unaware that their bad breath may be caused by stomach problems, and while it is actually fairly rare, can be a very serious condition.

The following are some of the stomach conditions that can cause bad breath.

  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, is a condition in which acid from the stomach moves up into the esophagus, causing a burning sensation in the chest or throat. In addition to bad breath, the acid associated with GERD can cause tooth erosin when the acid weakens enamel. Damage to the throat and oral structures may also lead to certain destructive bacteria growth in the mouth. With proper diagnosis and treatment, patients suffering from GERD can often control and even eliminate their symptoms, including their bad breath.

  • Ulcers are caused by bacteria known as Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) and often are accompanied by halitosis.  Scientists are still trying to determine the relationship between bad breath and H. pylori, because the bacteria doesn’t have an unpleasant odor on it’s own. Studies have shown though that individuals with H. pylori typically also carry Prevotella intermedia, a common periodontal bacteria, which is commonly associated with halitosis. Fortunately, the bacteria associated with stomach ulcers reacts effectively to antibiotic treatment, allowing a patient to easily control this condition.

Many patients believe that their bad breath is actually much worse than it is.  If you suffer from halitosis, consulting your dentist is the first step. Your dentist will check for tooth decay or periodontal disease, which are two of the most common causes of bad breath. If neither are present, bacteria living on the tongue may be to blame, in which case better brushing habits coupled with a mouth-rinse may do the trick. If the problem still persists, an evaluation from your family physician will likely be recommended. The mouth can often be the window to your overall health, and halitosis may be a symptom of a larger problem. Do not ignore this sign and contact your dentist today.

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