Good oral hygiene can prevent bad breath in seniors.

National Fresh Breath Day in 2018 is Monday, August 6th, and that makes this a good time of year to give a little thought to any problems in this area which might be affecting your senior loved one. Obviously, bad breath is a condition which does not carry the same urgency as the many other medical conditions which might affect the elderly, but it's still something that should not go unattended, because a severe case of halitosis (bad breath), might cause people, including yourself, to shun their company. It's also possible that bad breath may be an indicator of some more serious disease which is taking place. Professional caregivers in Arlington and elsewhere offer the following recommendations for dealing with bad breath in seniors.

Primary cause of bad breath

One of the most common causes of bad breath, especially in seniors, is the builder present in saliva after the breakdown of foods consumed by a person. Saliva is loaded with digestive enzymes that help to break foods down so they can be properly digested. Although there are antimicrobial properties of saliva which act to reduce the volume of bacteria and other microbes in a person's mouth, there are still many bacteria present which act on food particles in the mouth. This bacterial action causes the decay of food particles in places where they're stuck in the mouth, and it encourages the development of bad breath. While this may be the primary cause of bad breath in seniors and most other people, it is far from the only cause. 

Senior halitosis

Seniors who have dentures and don't keep them cleaned regularly are good candidates for bad breath because lack of regular cleaning allows for the buildup of bacteria that often give off noticeable odors. As a person ages, less saliva is secreted by glands in the mouth, and since saliva generally manages the proliferation of bacteria, there is less control over the volume of bacteria present in the mouth. This is especially true when accompanied by the presence of some type of chronic disease in a senior, or when the person regularly takes certain types of medications.

Some kinds of mouth and gum infections trigger bad breath, for instance, gingivitis, periodontitis, and infectious stomatitis, and if these are left untreated, it's very likely that bad breath will also go unchecked. There are also some throat diseases which can contribute strongly to the development of bad breath in a senior, including tonsillitis, pharyngitis, and sinusitis.

If a senior experiences some kind of liver failure or kidney failure, it's very possible for bad breath to be one of the attending symptoms, because waste products will tend to accumulate in the bloodstream as a result of inadequate elimination, and those waste products can be sensed by others in the form of bad breath.

Another fairly common cause of bad breath in seniors is acid reflux, in which material in the stomach backs up the food pipe, possibly reaching all the way up to the throat, where it can stay for a time in the mouth, and cause halitosis issues. One final cause of bad breath in seniors comes as a result of being afflicted with Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, or some other form of dementia, which leads to poor oral hygiene. That in turn, will allow bacteria in the mouth to run amok, and trigger chronic bread bad breath.

Managing bad breath in seniors

There are some simple things which can be done to reduce or eliminate the bad breath situation in your elderly loved one, beginning with paying more attention to good oral hygiene. Regular brushing goes a long way toward removing aromatic bacteria from the mouth, and if this can be accompanied by the regular use of mouthwash as well, the problem can be virtually eliminated. Any good mouthwash will kill a very high percentage of harmful bacteria in the mouth, and at least for some period of time, will leave breath smelling very fresh and appealing.

In addition to brushing and using mouthwash, it's very important for your senior loved one to establish a regular program of flossing, because this can remove most of the particles which get trapped between teeth, and which bacteria eventually cause to decay. Flossing is of course, also important for good dental health, but in this context, it can be essential for maintaining fresh breath.

Make sure your senior loved one has his/her dentures cleaned regularly if dentures are being used because that will remove the potential for buildup of nasty bacteria. You should also recommend to your elderly loved one that dentures are not left in the mouth for any long periods of time, especially the sleeping hours. In fact, the most convenient way to keep dentures clean is to remove them at night before bedtime and place them in a cleaning solution that will keep them bacteria-free, and ready for service the next day.

It's a good practice to have your senior loved one examined twice a year by a dentist so that any problems which crop up can be treated immediately, rather than having some kind of oral disease develop and become a contributor to bad breath. In terms of overall health, it's also highly advisable that your elderly loved one is examined regularly by the family doctor so that no other diseases can interfere with general well-being, and peripherally become a major cause of bad breath.