The Link Between Bad Breath And GERD – What You Need To Know
Bad breath is something that everyone gets self-conscious about. Not only does it lower one’s confidence, but it may also give others a negative impression of our dental hygiene. However, if bad breath persists even with a strict dental routine regimen of brushing, flossing, mouthwash, and more, it may be time to look beyond your mouth for the cause. Sometimes, this issue can stem from a meal bearing a solid odour or poor oral hygiene and several medical problems like gum disease, ketoacidosis, gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD for short. We shall focus on GERD and its link to lousy breath and discuss everything there is to know.
The Connection Between The Breath And The Body
Before going any further, it is essential to first learn about the connection between the breath and the body. As mentioned previously, bad breath generally follows after consuming particularly stinky foods. And despite what everyone believes, digestion does not begin in the stomach, but in the mouth, where food is broken down by chewing. In this process, food particles may get stuck and left behind, and no amount of brushing or mouthwash can remove the odour, only mask it temporarily.
Thus, it is recommended to check if your bad breath is not due to poor dental issues. Suppose your orthodontist rules out the common dental problems that lead to bad breath, such as gum diseases, poor oral care, or sulphur molecules on the tongue. In that case, they may look for acid erosion on the teeth and an inflamed, red throat, two common signs that point to the presence of GERD.
How GERD Causes Bad Breath
Chronic acid reflux, also known as GERD, is a medical condition in which a person’s stomach contents are backwards, like undigested foods, stomach acids, and regurgitated bile into the oesophagus terrible breath. Acid reflux is caused by a faulty lower oesophageal sphincter (LES). The LES is essentially a valve-like muscle between the oesophagus and stomach that opens to let food in and quickly closes afterwards. If the LES becomes abnormally relaxed, it may remain open and thus allow acids to escape and go up the throat.
Regurgitating these stomach contents causes lousy breath and other symptoms like heartburn, a bitter or sour taste in the mouth, nausea, vomiting, and pain or difficulty swallowing. However, there are also times when GERD occurs without these usual symptoms. Atypical or “silent” GERD generally includes chest pain, hoarseness, coughing, tooth decay, and a bad taste in the mouth.
The Different Ways To Treat Bad Breath From GERD
Lifestyle and diet changes
A few simple changes to one’s diet and lifestyle can help deter bad breath stemming from GERD. First and foremost is quitting smoking. Smoking inherently leads to bad breath, and nicotine products affect the LES, causing it to relax and prompt acid reflux. Moreover, smoking increases the risk of developing cancer in the mouth, throat, oesophagus, pancreas, stomach, liver, and colon. Although colon cancer treatment costs in Singapore and medication for other types of cancer have become more affordable than ever, prevention is still better than a cure, especially when it comes to cancer.
Some more changes to take note of include:
- Eating many smaller meals in a day instead of the usual three
- Maintaining a healthy weight to reduce pressure on the LES
- Chew gum to freshen one’s breath and reduce reflux
- Waiting two to three hours to lie down after eating
- Drink plenty of water to stimulate saliva production and precise acids from the mouth
When it comes to diet, modifying what and how you eat can help relieve bad breath and other symptoms of GERD. Many foods like spicy, fried or fatty foods, garlic and onions, citrus and tomato products, and more can aggravate and trigger acid reflux by increasing stomach acidity or relaxing the LES. Some also cause bad breath on their own. To get a complete list of foodstuffs to limit or avoid, check out our other article on diet do’s and don’ts for acid reflux.
Drug therapies for GERD
There are a few prescription-strength and over-the-counter medications that your doctor may recommend and observe to see if your symptoms improve from them. When combined with the lifestyle and diet changes above, keeping GERD under control is achievable.
Doctors may also opt to do a pH probe study to diagnose GERD in some cases. This diagnostic test will use a thin tube inserted through the nose that travels deep down into the oesophagus. This tube is attached to a monitor that measures how much acid travels each period upwards. If reflux exceeds a certain percentage, it is highly suggestive of GERD. Once completed, your doctor can then decide on the best treatment path for you.
Patients who undergo GERD treatment should not expect their bad breath to disappear soon. Often, it could disappear in just a week. In some cases, it may take longer, especially when there is a need to adjust your GERD medication doses continually.
Bad breath is a common problem that can be usually solved by simply doubling down on one’s oral hygiene and avoiding foods that come with a strong odour. But it may be due to GERD when this bad breath persists and is accompanied by other symptoms mentioned above. Suppose you suspect that it is the case. In that case, it is recommended to seek a doctor first and follow their prescriptions regarding the medications that will work best for your situation and any lifestyle changes they recommend.