Many people assume an association between teeth and bad breath (halitosis). In many instances they are right: some cases of bad breath are associated with poor dental hygiene, dental cavities, and gum disease (though many are not). Fortunately, when oral malodor is caused by these dental problems, the problem is relatively easy to correct. Like other causes of oral malodor, the unpleasant smell is the result of bacterial multiplication in the mouth.
The role of dental cavities in halitosis usually begins with poor dental hygiene and a lack of regular professional dental care. If you don’t brush and floss your teeth regularly, plaque forms on the outside surfaces due to the activities of oral bacteria. Plague that remains on the teeth causes a buildup of hard tartar, also teeming with oral bacteria. In additional, food particles caught between the teeth are broken down by bacteria. Many of these bacteria produce unpleasant smelling gases as byproducts of metabolism, and some break down tooth enamel. Thus they cause both decaying teeth and bad breath.
Tooth decay, of course, results in cavities-holes in the teeth in which more food particles become trapped, bacteria gain entrance and multiply, and healthy tissues break down. All of these things increase the amounts of unpleasant smelling gases being produced and exhaled from the mouth. Thus, decaying teeth and bad breath are directly linked. When inflammation spreads to the gums, or a decaying tooth develops an abscess, the role of dental cavities in halitosis is even more pronounced.
Gum disease provides an indirect link between teeth and bad breath. When gums become inflamed and/or infected, they may allow bacteria to multiply between the gum and the tooth, and sometimes even around the root of the tooth, creating a dental abscess. Inflamed tissues slough off dead cells as well, which are then consumed by bacteria, encouraging bacterial growth. The more odor-producing bacteria present, the more oral malodor produced.
The role of dental cavities in halitosis, combined with the effect of other dental problems, is so well understood, that anyone suffering from a breath problem is well advised to consult a dental professional and have their oral health assessed before pursuing other possible causes of this common condition.