Do Aligners and Braces Cause Bad Breath?

Do Aligners and Braces Cause Bad Breath?
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Do Aligners and Braces Cause Bad Breath?Clinical Content Reviewed by Dr. Jay Khorsandi, DDS
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Table of Contents

  1. Do Aligners & Braces Cause Bad Breath?
  2. Why Does This Happen?
  3. Is Bad Breath a Sign of Other Issues?
  4. Prevention
  5. How to Clean Braces and Aligners
  6. References

Bad breath is a common problem for people undergoing orthodontic therapy with braces or clear aligners. The ill-smelling exhales happen when you don’t practice good oral hygiene while wearing your appliances, causing excess bacteria to build up in your mouth. When this goes on for too long, it may cause you to develop gum disease and make the problem worse.

If you want to keep your breath fresh while wearing orthodontics, you will need to be extra vigilant about your oral hygiene routine. This includes brushing and flossing your teeth more often and cleaning your aligners regularly.

Do Aligners and Braces Cause Bad Breath?

Having orthodontic appliances in your mouth does not automatically lead to a wearer having bad breath. But it does make bad breath more likely.

Unless you have an injury to your teeth, gums or mouth that is trying to heal, foul breath is caused by a buildup of bacteria in the mouth. If you can keep your mouth clean at all times, odds are strong that you will never get bad breath. Unfortunately, being treated with braces or aligners sometimes promotes bacteria growth in the mouth.

There is some evidence to suggest that bad breath is slightly less likely with aligners compared to braces. However, patients with both types of orthodontics experience bad breath more often than the general population.

Why Does This Happen?

There are two main reasons why braces and aligners can cause bad breath – they make oral hygiene difficult and they trap bits of food in your mouth.

Both types of orthodontics sit in your mouth all day and may make brushing and flossing inconvenient or difficult. Braces are especially troublesome because they are oddly shaped, have lots of corners and sharp angles that are difficult to clean, and cannot be removed. These things create the perfect environment for mouth bacteria to hide and thrive. 

Because of the spider-web nature of the appliances, they tend to may trap food and drink particles that can be hard to flush out during routine brushing, flossing and rinsing. Wire braces are notorious for corralling food in their brackets. Saliva eventually breaks these bits of food down into sugars, and those sugars feed the bacteria in your mouth. This gives them plenty of energy to grow and reproduce, making bad breath more likely.

Is Bad Breath a Sign of Other Issues? 

Having bad breath does not necessarily mean that anything else is wrong other than you need to clean your teeth better and probably more often. Many people get bad breath from time to time after eating an odd combination of food (and sometimes drink). Sometimes brushing your teeth again is all it takes to fix the problem.  

However, if your breath is persistently bad, it may be a sign that you have developed gum disease or possibly issues with your digestive tract.

The earliest stage of gum disease is called gingivitis. This condition is very common, but it is also reversible with good oral hygiene.  

If you don’t treat it, however, gingivitis eventually progresses into periodontitis. This condition is irreversible and may lead to severe complications such as bone loss and shifting teeth. It also tends to produce a long-lasting foul smell in the mouth.  

If you think you may be developing gum disease, talk to your dentist about your concerns. They will check your gum health, offer deep cleaning treatments if needed, and suggest ways for you to improve your lifestyle and oral hygiene routines. 

Bad breath can also be a tell-tale sign of digestive issues or stomach trouble. Any ulcers that develop in your esophagus or stomach produce excess acid that can bubble up into the throat and cause excessively odorous breath. This is known as acid reflux.

Preventing Bad Breath 

How to Prevent Bad Breath with Aligners and Braces

If you wear orthodontics, the most important thing you can do to prevent bad breath is maintain good oral health. To do this: 

  • Brush your teeth at least twice a day using fluoridated toothpaste
  • Floss your teeth at least once a day
  • Visit your dentist regularly for checkups and cleanings

If you need faster results, you can chew sugarless gum or mints to temporarily freshen your breath. (Or, if you prefer a more natural remedy, try eating a couple basil leaves.) However, keep in mind that this is only a temporary solution. You will not be able to keep your breath smelling fresh until you get your oral hygiene under control.

How to Clean Braces and Aligners 

One of the major advantages of clear aligners is that they are easy to keep clean. Just take your aligner out of your mouth, scrub it with antibacterial soap, and give it a thorough rinse under running water.  

Some people soak their aligners in diluted vinegar or denture cleaner, but be warned: this often makes the aligner taste bad the next day. 

Cleaning braces is a bit more difficult. It is possible to do a good enough job removing the plaque from braces with standard toothbrushing techniques, but it isn’t likely. To make sure the job gets done right, spend a little extra time brushing each night. You should also be sure to floss regularly with your braces on, even if it’s hard. Tools like floss threaders and specialized floss picks can make this task easier.

References 

Targeting bad breath00980-0/fulltext). (December 2015). Journal of the American Dental Association.  

Gum Disease. (2021). MouthHealthy.org. 

Dental braces. (May 2021). Mayo Clinic. 

Halitosis with Fixed Orthodontic Appliance VS Removable Orthodontic Aligners: a Pilot Study. (May 2016). Stomatology Edu Journal. 

The effect of fixed appliances on oral malodor from beginning of treatment till 1 year. (February 2016). BMC Oral Health.  

Halitosis: from diagnosis to management. (January 2013). Journal of Natural Science, Biology and Medicine. 

What You Need to Clean Your Retainer, According to Experts. (May 2019). The New York Times Magazine. 

Bad Breath from Stomach Problems. Colgate.

Disclaimer: This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to serve as dental or other professional health advice and is not intended to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any condition or symptom. You should consult a dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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