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What Causes Bad Breath?

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Bad breath can be an embarrassing issue for some individuals and may even lead to awkwardness in social settings. Knowing what causes bad breath is important because the problem could be a sign of a more serious dental or medical issue. Fortunately, there are a number of steps that you can take to treat bad breath and make your mouth clean and healthy.

What Causes Bad Breath?

Bad breath, also known as halitosis, is an unpleasant odour that is usually detected when a person exhales. There are many causes, but most bad breath starts in the mouth. The National Health Portal of India notes that bad breath or halitosis (oral malodour) is an unpleasant odour of the mouth. It is a common complaint for both genders and for all age groups. Mild transient bad breath, which often arises after sleep, is common and generally not regarded as halitosis. It is termed as “morning halitosis”. Halitosis has numerous causes and origins.•Poor Oral Hygiene: Sometimes it may be a consequence of lifestyle. If you don't brush and floss daily, food particles accumulate in between your teeth and on your tongue; bacteria grow on the food left in your mouth and leave foul-smelling waste products (volatile sulphur compounds) behind, which lead to bad breath. Lack of regular tongue cleaning may be a cause of bad breath despite proper brushing and flossing.

Dietary Habits: Smoking cigarettes and cigars and using other tobacco products leaves a distinct, foul odour. In addition, consuming tobacco products increases your risk of oral and other cancers.

Poor Oral Hygiene and Gum Disease: Intake of certain foods and drinks such as onion, garlic, spices etc. and certain habits such as smoking, using tobacco products and drinking alcohol all cause halitosis. Fasting or starvation can also cause bad breath.

How You Can Fight Bad Breath

Perhaps the most important home care remedy is to brush, floss and clean your tongue regularly. Brushing your teeth twice per day, cleaning your tongue and flossing at least once per day remove food particles from your mouth. Cleaning your tongue after brushing reduces the bacteria that resides on the back of your tongue.

Your dentist can prescribe or recommend special toothpaste and mouthwash to prevent the production of bad odours.

The ADA warns that over-the-counter mouthwash is only a temporary solution because it does not treat the underlying cause of bad breath. Seeing your dentist and dental hygienist regularly for cleanings and check-ups is essential to good oral health. In addition, regular visits can help you determine the underlying cause of bad breath.

When to See a Medical Professional

If your dentist has eliminated dental issues as a potential cause of bad breath and determined that your mouth is healthy, you should see a medical professional. Only a medical professional can determine whether you have a medical condition.

Although bad breath can be an embarrassing issue, it does not have to be a social liability. Talk to your dentist if you have any concerns about bad breath. Following the above recommendations can help you feel more confident about your breath, even if bad breath is not a problem for you.

About the Author: Dianne L Sefo is a dental hygienist and a dental hygiene educator. She has been involved in multiple publications, worked in private practices in New York and Southern California and has been a faculty member at Monroe Community College, Concorde Careers College-San Diego and New York University.

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.