Morning Breath – What Causes It

Morning Breath

When you wake up in the morning, talking to your spouse is probably the last thing you’re thinking of doing; at least not until you’ve brushed your teeth.  Morning breath is something we all have to deal with.  The degree of severity varies from person to person, but for the most part the causes of morning breath are the same.


What Causes Morning Breath?

Before getting into that, it is first important to understand what causes bad breath.  While a number of different factors can contribute to it, the most common source are bacteria.  It is estimated that there are over 600 different types of bacteria present in the mouth and they are primarily anaerobic.  They survive in the cracks and crevices of the mouth, throat and even under layers of dead cells, food build up and other dead bacteria located on the tongue!  These bacteria break down proteins into amino acids, which in turn are converted into foul smelling compounds and gases.  This is bad breath in a nut shell.


While You Were Sleeping…

When we go to sleep at night a few things start to happen.  During the day, our mouths are always active; talking, eating, drinking and chewing.  This stimulates saliva.  While asleep, these activities cease and the mouth is at a standstill.  Saliva production is greatly reduced and the mouth begins to dry.  Saliva plays an important role in how your breath smells.  It helps to not only wash away bacteria, but also food particles and other proteins that they feed on.  Lack of saliva allows bacteria to flourish more freely and thus increase the amount of odor compounds that are produced.

In addition, when you sleep there is less oxygen being taken into the oral cavity.  Because anaerobic bacteria thrive in low oxygen environments, this allows them to survive much easier in comparison to when you are awake.

On the flipside, there are those who snore and/or breathe through their mouths while sleeping.  While it may sound contradictory in nature, this too can affect morning breath.  As previously mentioned, saliva production is reduced in part due to lack of oral activities.  Breathing through your mouth for a long, continuous time frame will severely dry out the mouth, and any saliva benefits become minimal at that point.  Without this washing away effect, build up of cells and dead bacteria occur and living bacteria actually thrive under all of that.  In a way, it acts as a protective shield from oxygen; an ideal situation for anaerobic bacteria.

Unfortunately, there is little that can be done to prevent morning breath.  It’s simply a by product of sleeping.  However, proper brushing, flossing and oral maintenance before going to bed and after waking up can go a long ways towards minimizing the problem.

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