No one wishes for bad breath (medically known as halitosis). In fact, many of us go to great lengths to avoid it with gum, mints and mouthwash. While it’s refreshing to pop in a tic tac, it doesn’t get to the root of the problem. Halitosis can actually have several different causes – some of which are serious.
Bad Breath Causes
The first thing we all think of when it comes to halitosis is the kind of food we eat. Garlic, coffee and onions are commonly blamed for bad breath. But bad breath from food is only temporary. However, if you have bad breath all the time, it could come from a number of other causes:
- Poor dental hygiene: Not brushing and flossing daily can leave food particles in your mouth. This can lead to bacterial growth that can lead to cavities, which cause bad breath.
- Smoking or using tobacco-based products: Tobacco not only stains your teeth, reduces your ability to taste foods and irritates your gums – it also causes bad breath. And because smoking also impacts your sense of smell, you may not know how bad your breath is.
- Gum disease: Bad breath or a consistent bad taste in your mouth could point to advanced periodontal disease.
- Dry mouth: Saliva is critical because it is constantly washing out your mouth. Without a sufficient amount of saliva, your mouth isn’t as clean as it should be.
- Infections in your mouth: Mouth sores or wounds left after oral surgery can cause halitosis.
Other Health Conditions
- Respiratory infections: To add insult to injury, pneumonia, bronchitis or sinusitis can cause bad breath.
- Postnasal drip: Caused by thick mucus mixed with saliva, or draining into the back of your throat.
- Diabetes: The production of ketones can cause breath to smell bad – sometimes like nail polish.
- Chronic acid reflux: The backward flow of stomach contents into your esophagus can cause bad breath.
- Liver or kidney problems: These can cause bad breath because toxic substances aren’t being properly filtered out of your body.
- Cancer: Halitosis may be caused by oral, throat or lung cancer.
For some causes of halitosis, there are DIY ways to prevent and eliminate it:
- Practice good oral hygiene by brushing twice daily, flossing once daily and brushing your tongue
- Clean dental appliances and dentures
- Treat and try to avoid dry mouth (drink plenty of water)
- Replace your toothbrush regularly – every 3-4 months or when it becomes frayed
- See a dentist twice a year for regular cleanings
- Stop smoking and using tobacco products
If you’re unsure if food is the cause of your bad breath, try keeping a food journal to log what you eat and how it impacts your breath.
Your dentist will often be able to identify and treat the causes of your bad breath – so that’s where you’ll want to start. Treatment may be as simple as improving your dental health and filling some cavities, or it could be more involved if the cause is a more serious health issue. If your dentist determines that your halitosis is not caused by a dental issue, you will likely be referred to your primary care physician or a specialist.
If you’re struggling with bad breath, or unsure if you have bad breath, Greenhill Family Dental Center can help. We can assess your symptoms, find the cause and will work with you to find a solution. Our dentists are dedicated to enhancing your health and providing personalized care.