Do you wake up in the morning with a bad breath problem? Most people do to some degree. According to the Academy of General Dentistry, more than 80 million Americans suffer with chronic halitosis, or bad breath, and millions more experience the condition intermittently, most often in the form of breath odor upon waking, or morning breath. Common or not, morning breath is an embarrassing problem, causing many who experience it to forgo morning pleasantries in favor of scurrying to the bathroom to brush their teeth. So what can be done about morning breath?
What Causes Morning Breath?
The source of halitosis is most frequently in the mouth, especially in cases where bad breath is present only or primarily upon waking in the morning. The fundamental cause of morning breath is that the mouth is drier while you sleep than it is during your waking hours. When your mouth is dry, odor-producing bacteria grow and multiply between the teeth, on the gums and on the surface of the tongue, and as they do, they release gases that produce that morning breath odor.
What causes your mouth to get so dry at night? Saliva production slows as we sleep, leading to a drier mouth, and snoring or sleeping with your mouth open causes further drying. Other factors can contribute in many cases, such as smoking, certain medications and conditions that prompt excessive mucus production, like sinusitis or allergies, since mucus drains down the back of the throat with these conditions, providing a hospitable environment for odor-causing bacteria.
What Can You Do About Morning Breath?
The good news is that, in most cases, morning breath can be significantly improved via a little extra care of your mouth. Among the steps you can take to promote more pleasant breath in the mornings are:
- Spend more time with your toothbrush – The average person spends just 35 to 40 seconds on tooth brushing. The standard recommendation from dentists is to brush for a minimum of 2 minutes at least twice per day to better ensure efficient removal of plaque, food particles and bacteria. Additionally, to alleviate morning breath, your final tooth brushing session of the day should be at bed time, with no food or drink afterwards, to minimize the amount of bacteria in your mouth during your sleeping hours.
- Floss – This is just as important as brushing when it comes to keeping your mouth clean and preventing morning breath. Flossing removes plaque, bacteria and food particles in areas where your toothbrush does not reach, reducing the amount of these bacteria-feeding substances in your mouth.
- Clean your tongue – Odor-causing bacteria often grows and thrives on the surface of the tongue, particularly at the back of the tongue. Using a soft-bristled toothbrush or a tongue scraper to evict these invaders daily can offer significant improvement in morning breath problems.
- Use a mouth rinse – Your dentist will be able to recommend a good rinse for reducing bacteria in your mouth, helping to control breath odors. Just be sure to follow the directions as to how long the rinse must remain in the mouth to be effective.
If these measures do not improve morning breath, your next step is to call Pat Crawford, DDS and make an appointment for a thorough dental examination. In some cases, undiagnosed dental problems – tooth decay or gum disease, for instance – can be at the root of the problem. If these issues are ruled out, there are other steps that can be taken to identify the source of your breath odor and alleviate this embarrassing problem.