Can braces cause bad breath?
There are many things to learn when you have braces. When it comes to the types of foods you can eat, how to care for your orthodontics, especially more traditional braces, what you can and cannot do with them, and of course the maintenance, you should ask your orthodontist what details you should know.
One thing that catches many people by surprise though is that they may notice that they unexpectedly have halitosis, also known as bad breath. It is little wonder then that many individuals draw a correlation between the use of their orthodontics and bad breath. But is this really the case? And if so, what can be done about it? Let’s check in with the experts on dental orthodontics.
Halitosis or bad breath is a symptom in which a noticeably unpleasant breath odor is present due to an underlying oral or systemic disease (Kumbargere Nagraj, S et al.,2019). This can result from not cleaning your teeth or braces properly, or it may result from dental infections, or you may have a chronic infection in the area around your tonsils. Temporary issues may also result from something you just ate, like certain cheeses, garlic, or fish.
More than half of the world’s population has experienced this problem (Kumbargere Nagraj, S et al.,2019), so you are not alone in having this issue.
Halitosis can lead to stigma and loss of self-esteem (Kumbargere Nagraj, S et al.,2019). This results especially from feeling self-conscious about your breath. But the good news is in many cases, you can correct this problem.
Why does my retainer smell or I get bad breath with braces?
For starters, there can be a couple of things at play that might be contributing factors. While your orthodontist might be able to tell you for sure what the cause may be, it is important to know that there may be more than one contributing factor. One contributing factor that can cause a change in your breath when using retainers or braces is your dietary change.
Many individuals who are using braces may have had to shift to an entirely different diet that they were not previously accustomed to. Giving up eating foods that require deep bites like apples and carrots, not eating anything sticky, crispy, crunchy, or very tough like steaks or other foods that require strenuous chewing can sometimes cause a natural imbalance in our own bodies. The fact of the matter is if you are eating food that is new to you and your body has not adjusted to it can be one possible cause for why individuals may get bad breath when they are using braces. However, it is not necessarily the most common.
Do braces cause bad breath and why does my Invisalign smell?
The answer to these questions is not exactly. While you previously may not have had bad breath before you got Invisalign or braces, the truth is it is not the Invisalign, braces, or retainers unto themselves that are actually causing the bad breath. Bad breath is most often caused when bacteria build up in the mouth.
When you are not using orthodontic gear, most of this is washed out on a regular basis between your saliva, any fluids you drink, and of course, regularly brushing your teeth. However, for individuals who have opened up an old water bottle, you may have noticed an incredibly bad smell. A similar thing can occur in your own mouth. If you’re using orthodontic gear that you are not cleaning adequately or regularly enough, it may start to get a bad funk on it. And of course, if you are wearing this, then it is going to transmit that gross smelling bacteria into your mouth where they will continue to proliferate causing significantly bad breath.
This bacterial growth can occur both in braces, retainers, and even Invisalign. Bacterial growth is an often contributing factor for why people may have bad breath. However, it may not be the only reason either.
Another issue, although one that is still related to proper cleaning, is if you are wearing braces, retainers, or other devices that are permanently affixed to your teeth, you may simply have food in them that has not been properly cleaned off. If you are not properly cleaning your wires, your brackets, or any other parts of your orthodontic appliances, food build-up could occur which as it decomposes is going to cause a significant stink on your breath.
Not only that, but of course having food attached to your orthodontics is going to do nothing for your good oral health either, much less your self-esteem and social life. This is why it’s absolutely essential to make sure that you follow the cleanliness and maintenance routines your orthodontist recommends. If you are still struggling, getting additional orthodontic assistance or possibly something like a water irrigation device may be a good option to help combat the buildup of food or bacterial growth.
What else can be done to assist this issue, particularly when it comes to your retainers that you actually can remove?
Invisalign bad breath
It should come as little surprise that proper cleaning and proper maintenance are the biggest keys to fighting bad breath when you have orthodontics. It can be difficult finding out exactly how to clean your orthodontics in a way that ensures that your breath stays fresh and pleasant. If you happen to have orthodontics that can easily be removed like Invisalign, then one great option is to simply clean your orthodontics as often as you clean your own teeth.
Since Invisalign and other removable retainers have to be taken out to eat anyway, simply taking this opportunity to clean them while there are out of your mouth can be a huge benefit in helping to maintain your overall cleanliness. Scrubbing them with a soft bristle toothbrush along with warm water and toothpaste can help to kill bacteria that may be causing halitosis.
Why does my retainer smell?
It is important if your retainer is starting to smell funny, do not attempt to use harsh chemicals, greater elbow grease, or try to sterilize it with boiling water. The only thing this will accomplish is damaging or breaking your retainer or possibly even causing you to accidentally ingest harsh chemicals that should not be used orally.
While cleaning chemicals are excellent for use on surfaces outside of your mouth, many of these exact same chemicals can be toxic and very dangerous if ingested orally. Just because the cleaner is safe to use on plastics does not mean that it should be used on plastics that you will put in your mouth.
Along with that, making sure that you do not use boiling water as a sterilizing agent is another thing to know as using boiling water can actually bend, warp, or deform your retainer making it now totally useless. The best thing you can do is to talk with your orthodontic office if you are still struggling after doing the normal cleanliness routines that you have been instructed to do and see if they might have advice on a better cleaning solution.
Many times individuals may choose to use a denture cleaning solution as individuals who wear dentures oftentimes suffer from the same types of problems as individuals who are using Invisalign or other removable braces. These solutions are often safe orally and can help reduce the growth of bacteria or even eliminate ones that may be the cause of bad breath.
Bad breath can be very unpleasant, unattractive, and even disheartening for anyone who has it or knows someone who has bad breath. It is likely that if you fall into either of these categories, you will want to resolve this issue.
If you generally have good oral hygiene and the bad breath started after you started wearing retainers, you will want to take a look at how thoroughly you clean your retainers. If you have poor oral health and a poor oral hygiene routine, then it is essential that you correct these. You can speak to a dentist about guidelines on brushing your teeth correctly, regularly, and adequately.
Your dentist will also be able to provide you with other tips and techniques on maintaining good oral hygiene. It is possible that even if you may be following a good oral hygiene routine, you may still have bad breath.
In this case, you should speak to your dentist about more advanced options. If you have a problem with bad breath because of your retainers, speak to your orthodontist or dentist about how to clean your retainers thoroughly to avoid the bacterial build-up that can lead to foul smells. Ideally, you should rinse your retainer with water regularly after meals and use a toothbrush and some toothpaste to thoroughly clean your retainer on a nightly basis. Your orthodontist may provide you with professional cleaning solutions that have been specifically designed for your retainer.
Kumbargere Nagraj, S., Eachempati, P., Uma, E., Singh, V. P., Ismail, N. M., & Varghese, E. (2019). Interventions for managing halitosis. The Cochrane database of systematic reviews, 12(12), CD012213. https://doi.org/10.1002/14651858.CD012213.pub2