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Causes of Bad Breath: The Five Worst Offenders

Jae Curtis

Whether you're headed to a job interview or a first date, bad breath can seriously cramp your style. Unfortunately, it's possible to brush your teeth and still have smelly breath. So what's the problem? While you might blame bad breath on a heavy dose of garlic, that's not the only thing that could be affecting your breath. By understanding the most common causes of bad breath, you can focus on prevention and treatment at the source for better breath all day.

Coffee and Cigarettes

If you notice that your breath seems stale after your morning break, it could be the result of your daily rituals. Both coffee and cigarettes are known causes of bad breath. The actual smells introduced to your mouth from coffee and cigarettes can cause unpleasant odors. Cigarettes also encourage the growth of foul-smelling bacteria in your mouth.

Dental Issues

Has it been a while since your last visit to the dentist? Your bad breath may be caused by dental health issues, not by stinky food. When you suffer from problems such as an abscessed tooth, gum disease, cavities and bad oral hygiene, your breath may be the first symptom you notice. That's because dental issues usually involve unpleasant-smelling bacteria that affect your teeth and gums. That's also why it's important to brush twice daily with an oral health product such as Colgate® Total® Advanced Deep Clean toothpaste. Regular checkups also help. They allow your dentist to address possible problems before they become serious issues.

Throat and Sinus Infections

If you've had a bad cold or sinusitis recently, your breath could suffer. According to MedlinePlus, certain viruses can cause infection in the throat and sinuses. The infection could lead to a foul smell from the throat, which is often mistaken for typical bad breath. If you have bad breath accompanied by a sore throat, swollen tonsils or phlegm and discharge from the throat or sinuses, see your doctor. You may need antibiotics instead of mouthwash.

Digestive Problems

When a hamburger or spicy foods leave you up all night with heartburn, it could be one of the causes of bad breath as well. Typically, your stomach acids help break down food and push it through your intestines. The National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse states that gastroesophageal reflux (GER) occurs when your stomach contents flow back up into your esophagus. Not only is it painful, but it can cause a smelly gas to come out of your mouth: Bad breath. Your doctor can talk to you about GER management and medications to help control your symptoms.

Food Particles

Food particles — such as those left over from the fish or garlic bread you just ate — can lead to bad breath. Food particles may become wedged between teeth and gums and leave behind an odor after you've finished eating. Chewing sugarless gum, sucking on a sugarless mint and using a disposable brush such as Colgate® Wisp® can rid your mouth of particles and give you fresh breath on the go.

Bad breath can affect anyone, anywhere. Understanding the causes of that smell will help you make lifestyle and behavioral changes that will banish bad breath once and for all.

Learn more about bad breath in the Colgate Oral Care resources.

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