Bad Breath

What causes it and what to do about it.

Do you frequently have a bad taste in your mouth?  Do people step back from you when you are talking or offer you mints or chewing gum?  If so, you could be suffering from halitosis, a chronic condition of having offensive-smelling breath. Halitosis is embarrassing and can interfere with your social or professional success.

What causes halitosis?

Poor dental hygiene

Every day, millions of bacteria accumulate in your mouth and in the crevices on your tongue, creating a sticky film called plaque.  This film full of odor-causing bacteria not only causes a foul smell in your mouth, but also irritates your gums which could lead to gum disease and infection.   

Infections in your mouth, such as periodontitis, tooth decay, and yeast infections can also cause bad breath.  Persistent bad breath or a bad taste in your mouth may be a warning sign of such infections.

Having poor dental hygiene and lack of flossing can also leave food particles around your teeth.  The breakdown of these food particles can increase bacteria and cause a foul odor as well.

Eating certain types of food

Eating certain foods, such as onions, garlic, cheeses, fish, coffee and other vegetables and spices with strong odors, also can cause bad breath.  The odor will not go away completely until the foods have passed through your body.  A low carbohydrate diet may also cause foul breath.  The end-product of this diet can cause a fruity acetone-like odor on the breath.

Having unhealthy lifestyle

Use of Tobacco products, drugs, and alcohol can be the cause of bad breath.  Smoking causes its own unpleasant mouth odor. Smoking and chewing tobacco can leave foul smelling chemicals that remain in the mouth.  The breakdown of alcohol also shows in your breath.  Sometimes we can detect if a person has a problem with alcohol overuse by simply smelling their breath.

Medications

Certain medications cause dry mouth by affecting the production of saliva.  Saliva helps flush, cleanse, and neutralize acids in your mouth by removing particles and dead cells that decompose and cause bad odors.

The breakdown of some medications in the body may also release chemicals that can be carried on your breath.  Diseases, such as some cancers, diabetes, nose/sinus/throat conditions, and chronic reflux, can cause a distinctive breath odor as a result of chemicals they produce.

How can I fight bad breath? 5 remedies

Almost everywhere we go, we are exposed to products such as gums, mints, and mouthwashes designed specifically to help fight bad breath. But many of these products are only temporary measures because they do not address the cause or root of the problem.

Here are some helpful tips to fight bad breath:

  1. Adjust your diet and avoid certain foods and beverages that can cause bad breath.  If you are expecting to eat food with high content of garlic or onion, for example, brush your teeth after you eat, rinse your mouth with mouthwash, or chew a piece of sugar- free gum or mint directly after.
  2. Practice good oral hygiene.  Lower your risk of gum disease and dental decay.  Floss at least once a day to remove plaque and food particles from between your teeth.  Brush your tongue or use a tongue scraper to help reduce odors.  See your dentist on a regular basis—generally twice a year to have your teeth examined and cleaned.
  3. Treat your dental disease.   If your dentist discovers that you have gum disease, you may be referred to a gum specialist (periodontist).  Gingivitis and periodontitis can cause the gums to pull away from the teeth, leaving deep pockets that accumulate odor-causing bacteria.
  4. Avoid dry mouth. Keep your mouth moist.  Drink plenty of water throughout the day.  Stimulate saliva by sucking on sugarless candy or chewing sugarless gum.  If you have chronic dry mouth, your dentist may prescribe medication to stimulate the flow of saliva or lubricate your mouth.  Make a list of your medications and review it with your dentist.  Some of the medications you are taking may be causing dry mouth.
  5. Most important…live a healthy lifestyle. Avoid tobacco, drugs, and excess alcohol.  Ask your dentist for tips on kicking the habit and additional tips for dental hygiene!