Do Oral Infections Cause a Distinct Odor?

Many types of oral infections can be diagnosed by a dentist on the basis of odor or smell. According to Dr. Joe Wegiel, a Ludlow-based cosmetic dentist at Ludlow Family Dentistry, PC, it is common for a dentist to be able to recognize the medical condition that a patient is suffering from based solely on the smell coming out of his or her mouth.

Bad breath, or halitosis, is a serious condition that effects many people. As a cosmetic dentist, Wegiel has become adept at recognizing the distinct smells caused by various conditions. Among the most recognizable smells for dentists is the odor caused by gingivitis.

Wegiel explains that it is common for people with gingivitis to suffer from bad breath because the bacterial levels in their mouths are so high. The plaque and bacteria that build up on the teeth will begin to smell over time, especially when they get caught in between teeth and along the gum lines.

Wisdom teeth that are infected or inflamed can cause a distinct odor as well, as can a number of chronic oral infections. For sufferers of periodontitis, which is a non-reversible dental bone condition, the smell can become strong enough to impact daily life and make communicating with nearby people difficult.

The specific problem for people with periodontitis is that those with this condition often have pocketing in their damaged bones. Bacteria and plaque tend to hide in these pockets, and once the pockets are more than 5 mm in depth, it becomes impossible for the person to effectively brush or clean these areas out on a daily basis, according to Wegiel.

Anytime a person has a buildup of any substance in his mouth, there is an increased chance of bad mouth odor. However, periodontal problems are by far the most common cause of bad breath that Wegiel comes into contact with.

For gingivitis sufferers, the blood that accumulates during daily brushing and flossing sessions can end up getting stuck in the mouth and causing a foul odor as well. No matter how well a person rinses out his or her mouth, a small amount of the blood that is coming from his gum line is still going to get inside his teeth. Even if he were to brush once every few hours, the smell would still be strong enough for a skilled dentist to notice during a close examination.

It is important to remember that just because someone has bad breath does not mean that he necessarily has an infection in his mouth. The distinct odors that people can have in their mouths will almost always come from one of three sources: the teeth and gums, the sinuses, or the stomach.

Noninfectious conditions such as acid reflux can cause some people to secrete stomach acids up into their mouths as well, and Wegiel says these acids can sometimes create an odor. Anyone who has a valve problem in his stomach is likely to have some type of bad breath issues as well.

The sinuses can also create a foul odor, especially when we have colds and other illnesses. When a person gets sick, his sinuses can get infected and filled up with material. That material will make its way into the mouth eventually, which is when the effects of bad breath will begin.

Many of the most common cold and flu medications actually cause dry mouth, which is why people taking antihistamines are likely to experience bad breath during the duration of their treatment. Having a dry mouth due to a lack of salivary flow or simply not drinking enough water is a very common cause of bad breath, according to Wegiel.

Rather than stuffing one’s mouth with breath mints and gum, Wegiel recommends that anyone who has bad breath come into his office for a consultation. A dentist¬†should be able to assess the situation based on smell and make a diagnosis within a matter of minutes.

*Disclaimer: The information on this website is not intended to substitute for the medical expertise and advice of your healthcare provider. We encourage you to discuss any decisions about treatment or care with an appropriate healthcare provider.

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