Oral malodor, halitosis, bad breath: no matter what you call it, it’s unpleasant and embarrassing. It is also one of the leading reasons that patients seek dental treatment.
Mints, gum, pills, pastes, and other breath “treatments” act mainly as temporary cover-ups. Some “breath busters” can make the problem even worse. So how can oral malodor be treated?
How and where oral malodor begins
The cause of bad breath is generally found on the surface of the tongue. The surface of your tongue is similar to a shag rug, with rough-textured, fingerlike papillae (bumps on the top and sides of your tongue) that create a textured, crevasse-like surface.
Naturally occurring oral bacteria as well as dental plaque collects all over this textured surface, including between the “fingers” of the papillae. As the bacteria and plaque break down, volatile sulphur compounds (VSCs) are produced and create oral malodor.
How to reduce oral malodor
Step 1: Floss
If you have any natural teeth, we recommend you floss before you brush. Flossing removes interproximal (between the teeth) plaque and debris, removing it before it even has a chance to generate VSCs.
Cleaning interproximal tooth surfaces before brushing also helps to ensure that the fluoride in your toothpaste will contact the maximum amount of enamel (outer layer) on your teeth, to strengthen and protect them.
Need to floss but find it difficult? There are other options out there, like flossing picks and water flossers. These may not remove all plaque, but they can be easier to use than string floss.
A Sulcabrush® is another option to clean between teeth. It is clinically proven to perform as well as floss to remove plaque and reduce gingivitis and is particularly effective for cleaning around dental implants, bridges, crowns, and orthodontic bands.
Step 2: Brush
Brushing teeth works in two ways. First, plaque and tartar are mechanically scraped off the teeth. Second, fluoride in toothpaste rebuilds and strengthens the enamel of natural teeth.
If you have any natural teeth, use a toothpaste that is gentle to teeth’s enamel, and a soft or extra-soft toothbrush to clean your teeth effectively while being gentle on enamel. Steer clear of firm-bristled toothbrushes and highly abrasive toothpastes such as whitening formulas.
To clean denture teeth, rinse your denture with water to remove any loose debris, then brush gently with a denture brush or extra-soft toothbrush and plain water. Rinse your denture again, then soak your denture in your preferred denture cleaner.
Step 3: Scrape your tongue
The tongue is covered with papillae – fingerlike projections that make the tongue’s surface tufted and uneven. Food, debris, and bacterial residue can get trapped in the surface grooves and fissures, causing malodor as it breaks down.
A toothbrush’s bristles are soft and pliable and cannot penetrate into the crevasses of the tongue’s surface to clean it effectively.
Tongue scraping is the best way to clean the surface of the tongue. It involves using a small tool called a tongue scraper that is scraped lightly over the tongue to remove biofilm, food, and debris. Tongue scrapers are generally inexpensive and can be purchased through your dental professional.
Step 4: Rinse
Once you have removed plaque and debris from your teeth and tongue, the final step is to chemically neutralize any remaining debris.
Oral rinses containing chlorine dioxide (ClO2) have been proven effective in controlling oral odour as ClO2 disrupts the growth of odor-causing bacteria, reduces VSCs, and decreases plaque accumulation. The effectiveness of ClO2 improves over time so daily use is recommended for maximum results.
By following this regimen twice a day, you can control oral malodor and improve your overall oral health.