Bad breath is one of the more misunderstood health conditions that can face seniors living in Encino and elsewhere. While it’s easy for people to not say anything about someone’s halitosis out of general politeness and respect, in some cases, the strong smell can indicate a variety of health problems and even a possible need for palliative care.
The team at Accredited Home Care is always happy to work with seniors and any loved ones to educate them about why bad breath may be occurring and why it’s increasingly common as people age. They also can make some useful suggestions to help those who might want to find ways to reduce the frequency or intensity of their halitosis.
This month is the perfect time to learn more about the hows and whys of halitosis. Though Aug. 6 was officially National Fresh Breath Day, the information is good all year round.
The day is intended to encourage everyone to have better oral care and appreciate oral hygiene. It also invites dental professionals to focus on educating their patients about ways to reduce bad breath, starting with better brushing and flossing on a regular basis plus swishing with mouthwash as needed.
Learning more about reasons for bad breath also can help people take steps to reduce theirs. They can also communicate this information with caregivers, providers and family members as well.
Common reasons for senior bad breath can include:
- Medications. Because many seniors have a variety of health conditions, sometimes more than they did earlier in life, some of the medicine that treats them may create conditions that can cause bad breath. For instance, certain blood pressure, angina or depression medications are known to cause dry mouth or produce certain smells as the body metabolizes the medication. Even natural herbal supplements like garlic or onions can also cause strong smells. Discussing possible side effects with a provider, caregiver or even a pharmacist can make people aware of what could cause these conditions.
- Denture problems. Dentures that aren’t cleaned regularly can begin to contribute to odors in the mouth. These can be further aggravated by dentures that don’t fit well, allowing food to be trapped underneath. The smell can also be caused by bacteria that build up. Denture cleansing tablets used regularly can help reduce odor as can working with a dentist for proper fit or adjustment. Other dental appliances such as partial dentures or fixed bridges can have similar fit/cleaning challenges.
- Poor oral health. Not brushing or flossing regularly can contribute to increased bacteria, chewed but not digested food and plaque in the mouth. Generally, people are encouraged to brush between meals, or at least at the start and the end of the day. A dental health provider can offer pointers in proper regimen or help people who may have difficulties or challenges brushing or flossing with traditional tools. Advanced dental problems such as periodontal or gum disease can cause further bad breath but a dental provider may be able to address this with regular treatments. This can allow gums to heal, plaque to decrease, and bacteria to be reduced.
- Substance use. Smoking or chewing tobacco can cause the breath to be strong and unpleasant. This is due to the smoke or tobacco lingering in the mouth and gums and affecting soft tissue, and also any smells being exhaled from the lungs. Health care providers always suggest quitting tobacco at any age or condition, since reducing tobacco use can provide high health benefits. Over a long period of time alcohol can also aggravate the body which can cause bad breath.
- Physical health. Some medical conditions can contribute to bad breath. The Mayo Clinic said some metabolic disorders especially can contribute to poor smells. Some cancers, acid reflux or other intestinal problems can affect what smells come out of one’s mouth or nose due to the various acidic or chemical reactions. Infections in the body, which can sometimes be triggered by problems in the mouth, can cause further oral health problems. Sinus problems can also contribute to smells. Conditions that cause significant weight loss also can cause bad breath.
Overall, people concerned about their bad breath or someone they know are encouraged to use gum, mints or mouthwash on a regular basis, although these are all temporary fixes. The aroma of one’s breath can change through the day based on what they’ve been eating, drinking or medication they’re taking.
People who are especially concerned about bad breath especially if it seems to have become stronger recently should check with their preferred health provider. He or she could also be interested in further analysis to see if there have been changes in your health or life in general over the last few months.
Because the staff at Accredited Home Care has been serving California residents for years, we’re familiar with many of the causes of bad breath and options to reduce this. We’ll be happy to talk with family members and clients about their concerns.