For many people, bad breath isn’t just something that comes and goes depending on what you ate. It may be a sign of gum disease, and it is definitely a sign that you are losing the war on bacteria in your mouth.
Oxygen vs. Sulfur
In our mouths there are hundreds of different types of bacteria, all fighting for dominance. There are good kinds of bacteria that can help digest food. And there are bad kinds of bacteria, which may be responsible for bad breath, tooth decay, and gum disease.
All bacteria can be divided into two types: aerobic bacteria and anaerobic bacteria. Aerobic bacteria use oxygen to help them digest their food, just like you and me. They get energy by breaking down food into carbon dioxide and water, both of which are odorless.
Anaerobic bacteria, on the other hand, don’t use oxygen to break down their food. The ones that live in your mouth mostly use sulfur to break down foods. Sulfur compounds are anything but odorless. They can smell like rotten eggs or worse.
These two types of bacteria are in a constant war for dominance in your mouth. Which one is winning depends in part on what the conditions are like there. Aerobic bacteria do well living on your teeth and many other places in your mouth that get a lot of air. Although these bacteria don’t make bad breath directly, they can break up the food that you eat and make it easier to digest for anaerobic bacteria.
Anaerobic bacteria like to live in places that don’t get a lot of air, such as below your gum line, at the back of your tongue, or in the crevices of your adenoids. When these anaerobic bacteria build up, it can lead to bad breath.
A Little Bit You, a Little Bit Genes
Preventing the buildup of anaerobic bacteria depends in part on making sure you’re following a good oral hygiene routine. Removing plaque above the gumline can make things less hospitable for sulfur-belching bacteria down below, because they won’t get the hand-me-downs from up above. Remembering to clean your tongue when your brush will help, too. And, of course, flossing down to the gum line to remove bacteria that are beginning to build up down there. It’s also important to make your regular dental checkups so you can have dental tartar removed, which helps shelter anaerobic bacteria.
But this is only part of the story. The type of bacteria that you get in your mouth and many other factors related to bad breath and oral health depend on your genes. You may be doing everything right, but if you are still not seeing the results you would like, it may be because you just have an unlucky combination of genes.
Fortunately, even if you are more likely to get bad breath, it can usually be reduced or eliminated with the help of a dentist. To learn more, please call (702) 873-0324 for an appointment with Dr. James B. Polley in Summerlin today.