Bad breath, or halitosis, is not only embarrassing, but it can also be the sign of serious underlying health conditions. Whether you’ve just eaten a particularly smelly food or aren’t brushing and flossing as well as you should be, you definitely want to avoid this odorous problem. Read on for the most common causes of bad breath.
Less than Stellar Oral Hygiene
In many instances, bad breath is caused by poor oral hygiene. If your mouth and teeth aren’t thoroughly cleaned regularly, food particles can remain in your mouth and cause a buildup of bacteria, or plaque. In addition to bad breath, poor oral hygiene can lead to gum disease and the formation of cavities, which can also cause bad breath. Brushing twice a day, flossing once a day and regular visits to the dentist are the best ways to keep your breath smelling clean and fresh.
While garlic fries and cheese burgers with grilled onions sure do taste delicious, their smell can certainly linger on your breath. After eating particularly strong and flavorful foods like garlic, onions and certain vegetables and spices, odor-causing food particles enter the bloodstream and are carried to the lungs. This explains why the taste of these foods stay with you – and with those you’re close to – the odor of your breath is affected when you exhale.
Getting Your Caffeine Fix
Not only does a strong cup of coffee get you moving in the morning, it can also leave you with bad breath. The intense flavor of coffee is one culprit, as is the effect it has on your saliva production. Caffeine decreases your saliva production, and less saliva in your mouth means an increase in odor-causing bacteria.
Just like the caffeine in your morning cup of coffee, alcohol consumption decreases your saliva production, leading to an environment ripe for the growth of smelly bacteria in your mouth.
If you eat a diet that includes a lot of sugary foods, you may find that bad breath is an unintended result of indulging in these sweet treats. The reason for this is because the bacteria that naturally exist in your mouth react with the sugars from the sweet foods and create some pretty unpleasant smells.
High Protein and Low Carb Diets
High-protein foods can be difficult for your body to digest and tend to release sulfurous gases when they don’t metabolize properly. This, of course, can lead to bad breath. If you severely eliminate carbohydrates from your diet, changes in your body’s metabolism can occur. These changes can also result in bad breath.
You can avoid bad breath by eating a balanced and nutritious diet that includes hard fruits and vegetables, such as apples, carrots and celery. These foods help clear odor-causing plaque and food particles from your mouth.
Smoking or Using Any Type of Tobacco Product
Smoking cigarettes or using any type of tobacco (chew, e-cigarettes, pipes, cigars, etc.) all cause not only bad breath, but have very severe consequences on your oral and overall health. Smoking or chewing can permanently damage the teeth and gums, causing sometimes irreversible health conditions.
Issues with Digestion
If you typically have poor digestion, you can unfortunately also experience chronic bad breath. Conditions such as acid reflux can cause odors from recently digested food to make their way back up your esophagus and out your mouth.
As mentioned above, healthy saliva production helps keep your mouth clean by removing the food particles and bacteria that cause bad breath. If you don’t produce enough saliva, you may have dry mouth, or xerostomia, and as a result, you may have chronic bad breath.
Saliva production naturally decreases while you’re sleeping which is why most people experience unpleasant “morning breath.” However, if you are noticing that you have dry mouth during the day, talk to your dentist about possible treatment options. (It is also worth noting that some prescription medications cause dry mouth as a common side effect).
Other Health Conditions
Typically, bad breath is caused by one of the above mentioned factors. However, there are times when bad breath is caused by other health issues or conditions. Chronic bad breath may be a warning sign of gum (periodontal) disease. If gum disease continues untreated, it can damage the gums and jaw.
Seasonal allergies, postnasal drip, respiratory and tonsil infections, sinus problems, diabetes, liver and kidney issues, as well as certain blood disorders can also cause bad breath. In some rare cases, bad breath could be a sign of cancer or other serious conditions.
How to Combat Bad Breath
The first step is to practice good oral hygiene by brushing, flossing and seeing your dentist regularly. Make sure to drink lots of water, eat a balanced diet, don’t smoke or chew tobacco and reduce your sugar intake. Replace your toothbrush every 2 to 3 months and rinse daily with an antibacterial mouthwash.
Also, never be afraid to talk to your dentist if you notice that you have reoccurring bad breath. Your dentist will help you to determine whether your bad breath is oral in origin or if you should see your doctor for a more thorough checkup.