NETfacts: Personal Care Products, Self-care

What Causes Bad Breath?

Whether it’s a case of morning breath or a lingering bout with halitosis, everyone has bad breath sometimes.

Bad breath can be embarrassing and a bit of a social handicap. It is not a wonder that we spend millions each year on efforts to freshen our breath with various gums, sprays, and mouthwashes.

Do you really know what’s causing your bad breath? Check out the possible causes below:

Food

The breakdown of food particles in and around your teeth can increase bacteria and cause a foul odor. Eating certain foods, such as onions, garlic, and other vegetables and spices, also can cause bad breath. After you digest these foods, they enter your bloodstream, are carried to your lungs and affect your breath.

Tobacco products

Smoking causes its own unpleasant mouth odor. Smokers and oral tobacco users are also more likely to have gum disease, another source of bad breath.

Poor dental hygiene

If you don’t brush and floss daily, food particles remain in your mouth, causing bad breath. A colorless, sticky film of bacteria (plaque) forms on your teeth and if not brushed away, plaque can irritate your gums (gingivitis) and eventually form plaque-filled pockets between your teeth and gums (periodontitis). The uneven surface of the tongue also can trap bacteria that produce odors. And dentures that aren’t cleaned regularly or don’t fit properly can harbor odor-causing bacteria and food particles.

Dry mouth

Saliva helps cleanse your mouth, removing particles that may cause bad odors. A condition called dry mouth — also known as xerostomia can contribute to bad breath because production of saliva is decreased. Dry mouth naturally occurs during sleep, leading to “morning breath,” and is made worse if you sleep with your mouth open.

Infections in your mouth

Bad breath can be caused by surgical wounds after oral surgery, such as tooth removal, or as a result of tooth decay, gum disease or mouth sores.

Other mouth, nose and throat conditions

Bad breath can occasionally stem from small stones that form in the tonsils and are covered with bacteria that produce odorous chemicals. Infections or chronic inflammation in the nose, sinuses or throat, which can contribute to postnasal drip, also can cause bad breath.

Medications

Some medications can indirectly produce bad breath by contributing to dry mouth. Others can be broken down in the body to release chemicals that can be carried on your breath.

Other causes

Diseases, such as some cancers, and conditions such as metabolic disorders, can cause a distinctive breath odor as a result of chemicals they produce. Chronic reflux of stomach acids (GERD) can be associated with bad breath.

Good dental hygiene can improve bad breath and is usually considered the best preventive measure.

Tips to good dental hygiene:

  • If you don’t brush and floss regularly, harmful bacteria can attack tooth enamel, which will lead to tooth decay.
  • Make sure you replace your toothbrush every few months, since a number of microorganisms can live in your toothbrush and infect your mouth.
  • Visit your dentist regularly. The Canadian Dental Association recommends a check up every six months, but your dentist may suggest that you visit more or less often depending on how well you clean your teeth.

Bad breath can be very embarrassing, so save yourself some dental costs and help keep your breath fresh and healthy.

‘Young Man Brushing Teeth’ Image courtesy of artur84 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

‘Young Girl The Brush Her Tooth’ Image courtesy of photostock / FreeDigitalPhotos.net