Halitosis, or bad breath, is a common problem that more than 50% of the general population experiences at some point. This condition can be uncomfortable—as you may develop a bad taste in your mouth—and embarrassing when others can smell it.
Although bad breath can affect everyone, people with braces are more susceptible to developing it.
From an orthodontist’s perspective, the bigger concern about halitosis is what it means about the health of the patient’s mouth. The main culprit of this unpleasant taste and odor is an overgrowth of bacteria.
Bacteria are at the root of tooth decay, and a mouthful of cavities is not the desired outcome for your investment in braces.
The importance of caring for your teeth during your time in braces cannot be stressed enough. Keeping your braces clean will lower the risk of cavities or gum irritation around the teeth that could slow your treatment.
When the orthodontist applies your braces, he will provide a detailed guide on how to care for your teeth and keep them clean. Proper oral hygiene during your treatment is your first line of defense against bad breath.
Bad breath prevention and treatment are largely the same. There are several actions you can take to help reduce the severity of your halitosis or prevent it from developing.
Brush More Often
Most dental professionals recommend brushing at least twice a day. If you are wearing braces and experiencing bad breath, you may need to brush a little more.
However, don’t overdo it. Your instincts might tell you that the harder you brush, the cleaner your teeth will get. This is not necessarily true. In fact, brushing over your braces too hard could damage the brackets or wires. Some higher-end electric models will come with a sensor feature that shuts down if it detects too much force.
Brushing too forcefully, especially with a hard bristle, also can cause erosion of your enamel and gum irritation. Pressing hard doesn’t increase efficacy. Taking the time to brush over all surfaces, front and back, as well as the gum line, is what makes for good habits.
Brushing too many times per day can also have adverse effects. If you think you need to brush more than three times a day, be sure to get your orthodontist’s stamp of approval first.
Proper brushing methods also are important. This video shows one way to go through the complete brushing process with braces.
A good toothpaste also helps relieve halitosis. Toothpastes aimed at balancing the pH of your mouth and those containing sodium fluoride as especially effective at combating bad breath, as this site suggests. However, it’s wise to consult with your orthodontist before switching toothpaste. Because bad breath is a common complaint with braces, she may have experience with a particular brand of toothpaste that has worked for patients in the past.
Unfortunately, flossing can be more of a challenge while wearing braces. But that doesn’t mean you can skip it. Too many people make the mistake of thinking their dental hygiene is “good enough” because they brush their teeth regularly.
Because a toothbrush cannot reach the plaque between your teeth, tooth decay and gum disease may develop in those areas, and this can cause bad breath to occur no matter how often you are brushing the surfaces of your teeth.
Not only does smoking give you the classic smoker’s breath that any nonsmoker can detect from feet away, but tobacco causes dry mouth, which destroys bacteria-fighting antibodies in your saliva.
If you are wearing braces and are a smoker, you have a high chance of developing bad breath, and a low chance of eliminating it completely unless you quit. Consider these smoking cessation options.
Watch What You Eat
A variety of low-carb diets have been around for several years and remain popular. The keto diet, which is a descendant of the Atkins diet, is trendy right now. And while it may be good for your waistline, it’s not so good for your breath.
The body releases certain chemicals as it burns fat, called ketones. A hallmark feature of entering into the fat-burning state of ketosis is bad breath. If you already are worried about the implications of braces on your breath, you might consider putting off this diet.
Regardless of your prefered diet, you want to consider the potential impact of your food and beverage choices on your breath (and your braces).
Foods and drinks that cause bad breath:
Foods and drinks that might cause bad breath:
- Fruit juice
- Sugary sodas
Foods and drinks that improve your breath:
- Green Tea
Speaking of water, drink plenty of it while you are wearing braces.
Dehydration can increase the likelihood of bad breath. As with smoking, dehydration causes dry mouth, which inhibits the production of saliva. Those bacteria that will fester as a result are agents of halitosis.
The standard recommendation for water intake is two liters per day. However, depending on your body chemistry, the foods and other beverages you consume, and your activity level, you might need to adjust that amount.
Just remember that if you choose other fluids as hydration sources, you should rinse your mouth with water after drinking them, especially if you are wearing braces.
Beware of Gum and Mints
Ask someone about the best way to mask bad breath, and she will probably mention gum and breath mints. However, if you are wearing braces you must be wary of this advice.
You should never chew gum while you are wearing braces, even if it is for a good cause. Breath mints can be OK, however you need mints that dissolve and the discipline not to bite down on them. Breath mints with hard shells can break wires or brackets, as can chewy mints that can also get stuck in your braces.
Use A Tongue Scraper
Regularly scrubbing or scraping the surface of your tongue eliminates a lot of bacteria and the nutrients they feed on. An overgrowth of these bacteria in your mouth actually affects the health of your gums and teeth as well.
Many dentists recommend adding tongue cleaning to your basic oral hygiene routine, but it can be even more important while wearing braces.
Rinse With Mouthwash
Use an antibacterial mouthwash as part of your oral hygiene routine to help fight bad breath, plaque, and gingivitis.
Here’s one list of suggested rinsing agents that can help alleviate bad breath.
Schedule Dental Visits
You already attend regular orthodontic appointments, so why go to the dentist? By this point, you might not be surprised that visiting the dentist regularly while you are wearing braces is an important part of your orthodontic treatment.
Regular cleanings and checkups that the hygienist and dentist perform will go beyond your toothbrush and floss to ward off bad breath and keep your teeth in great shape to proceed with the journey toward your perfect smile.