Dentists Reveal the Causes Behind 4 Common Oral-Care Issues

Experiencing bleeding gums? You may be dealing with serious gum disease. Noticing bad breath? It could be because you’re dehydrated, and the list goes on. According to cosmetic dentists, the mouth-body connection is a strong one. Here, they share what could be going on behind the scenes of common oral issues and how to get to the bottom of it.

If you have bad breath…

You might be dehydrated

“Generally, dehydration causes dry mouth, and could be a side effect of certain medications, as well as poor dietary hydration,” says Los Angeles cosmetic dentist Rhonda Kalasho, DDS. “Saliva in the mouth is protective. It keeps the environment in the mouth alkaline, brings in enzymes for bacterial breakdown and digestion and has ions for preservation of tooth strength. Stay hydrated and drink plenty of liquids to keep the salivary flow going,” recommends Dr. Kalasho.

It might be a reflection of your diet

Dr. Kalasho says bad breath can also come down to the foods you’re eating (or not eating). “A low-carb diet causes something commonly known as keto breath, which smells kind of like acetone, but to most people has a sour smell. Some people who are engaging in a low-carb diet say their mouth tastes like metal. It is essentially the scent of ketosis occurring in the body, a process in which the body creates fuel off the break down of fats and protein instead of carbohydrates.” To fix this, she recommends eating more carbs and less protein, that is if you cannot mask the bad taste with mints, gums or good oral hygiene. On the other hand, not eating can also contribute to a foul smell. “During the fasting state, your body breaks down sugars and fats which releases an odor when exhaled. Eat regularly, and keep a diet that is clean, making sure to include plenty of liquids.”

There’s an overgrowth of bacteria in your mouth

According to Cranberry Township, PA cosmetic dentist Robert M. Klaich, DDS, bad breath can be caused by bacteria. “Halitosis is most commonly caused by sulfur-producing bacteria residing on the tongue and the back of the throat,” he says. “In addition to regular brushing and flossing, it’s important to also brush your tongue to reduce this type of bacteria. Using a tongue-scraper is an especially effective way to control bad breath as well.” In more serious cases, however, too much bacteria can also be a sign of gum disease. “Sometimes bad breath can be caused by gum disease or a periodontal infection around a tooth. In this case, it’s best to see a dentist to treat the tooth or infected surrounding tissues to eliminate the source of bacteria. This will not only make the area healthier, but will also eliminate the odor. Regular visits to see your dental hygienist for cleanings will help to maintain a healthy, odor-free environment.”

It could be a sign of unregulated diabetes

Alongside many other symptoms, Dr. Kalasho says diabetic patients generally have keto breath for the same reason a person engaging in a low carbohydrate diet does: “Diabetic patients do not produce insulin to digest sugars—sugars like glucose are necessary to produce fuel for the body—therefore if the body does not have sugar, it will resort to breaking down fats, and the process is ketosis which releases ketones, giving off that ‘nail polish breath.’ Making sure you take your insulin as prescribed and ingesting carbohydrates at a healthy amount in a proper balance with fatty foods will diminish the chances of keto breath.”

Sarasota, FL cosmetic dentist Jenifer C. Back, DMD also says that uncontrolled or poorly controlled diabetes can show up as advanced gum disease. “When we see patients with quickly advancing bone loss around the teeth, we refer them for a complete medical evaluation.”

You breathe out of your mouth

Similar to when you’re dehydrated, those who breathe out of their mouths generally have poor smelling breath. “The bacterial load is high in their mouths because saliva is protective,” Dr. Kalasho continues. “Dry mouth means low saliva, which then means the bacteria are having a field day, being able to grow exceptionally without the possibility of being naturally washed away by saliva.”

Her tip? “Make sure you are conscious of this in your awake state, and learn to breathe through your nose. You may want to check with your dentist to see if there are guards that can be worn during the night. Stay hydrated throughout the day and rinse your mouth regularly with water to help cleanse your teeth surfaces.”

If you have receding gums…

Your oral hygiene needs a boost

Dr. Kalasho says receding gums can be caused by poor oral hygiene, which causes plaque and calculus to pack at the gum line and not allow for the gum to adhere to the tooth. “When calculus, or hard bacteria, is stuck to the tooth surface, it creates an environment of gum inflammation and bone loss where the gum begins to strip away from the tooth.”

Your teeth may be misaligned

“Another reason for recession has to do with your bite, or occlusion,” Dr. Kalasho continues. “This is a recent understanding of recession. We have found that when a tooth or several teeth are too heavily impacted or inclined in a way to offset its occlusion, the bone is actually impacted and begins to wear down. Bone and tissue follow each other, so as the bone starts to lower down either due to gum disease or a poorly set bite, then the gum follows.”

If you have frequent headaches and jaw pain…

You may be clenching and grinding from a misaligned bite

“In past years, it was strongly believed that clenching and grinding was caused by stress, but in more recent studies, we are discovering that it is actually from malocclusion, or misaligned teeth and bite,” says Chicago cosmetic dentist Nathan Hoffman, DDS. “A bite that isn’t properly aligned can cause numerous problems to the body, which includes but is not limited to jaw and neck pain, headaches, severe clenching and grinding, wear of the teeth, recession of the gums, and much more. ”

Dr. Hoffman also says that, other than causing grinding and clenching, misaligned teeth are harder to keep clean, which may result in bad breath from poor oral hygiene. “It is becoming more prevalent to correct misalignment issues to really get to the core of these problems. At my practice, I am a believer in not only enhancing the appearance of a person’s smile through cosmetic dentistry, but making functional medicine part of the process as well. It’s one thing to look good, but to look good and feel good is everything.”

To treat malocclusion issues, Dr. Hoffman creates a custom plan for patients using Invisalign. “Even individuals whose teeth ‘seem straight’ can be treated because having straight teeth does not equate to a healthy bite, a problem people don’t even know they have until we address it and correct it for them. It is amazing how much better the body feels and functions from a properly aligned bite—people just have to be aware of it in order to fix it.”

If you have bleeding gums…

It could be a sign of gum disease

Dr. Kalasho says your gums should not bleed when you brush or floss. “The appearance and feel of your gums tell a story of your overall health and inflammation. Gums that are diseased will bleed when you floss, or brush. They may even have a bright red, full appearance which may bleed when you touch them or eat. In that case, your gums are severely diseased, which could be causing your bone surrounding your teeth to deteriorate. This all has a major effect on your overall health, as much of that bacteria found in the mouth can also travel systemically in the body. The bacteria responsible for gum disease has been scientifically proven to be linked to cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s and it’s also a reason for failed joint prosthetics. Your gums health is incredibly important to maintain, not only for your teeth’s sake, but for your overall health and wellness.”

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