Sometimes called halitosis, bad breath is usually caused by poor oral hygiene habits, infections in the mouth, unhealthy habits, such as smoking and alcohol intake, and foods you eat. Other culprits include dry mouth, respiratory tract infections, systemic diseases such as diabetes, kidney, liver and lung disease, and gastrointestinal issues, which may include acid reflux and other stomach digestion problems.
Bad Breath 101
Medically Reviewed By Colgate Global Scientific Communications
What Causes Bad Breath?
Bad breath odors vary, depending on the source or the underlying cause. Some people worry too much about their breath, even though they have little or no mouth odor, while others have bad breath and don't know it. The underlying causes can be poor oral hygiene from dental plaque biofilm, food debris and the development of gingivitis. Because it's difficult to assess how your breath smells, try to smell your breath by placing your hand over your nose and mouth and breath, ask a relative or close friend. Consider seeing a dental professional to confirm if bad breath is an issue for you and to ask how to treat it.
Determining the causes of bad breath can be tricky without the help of a healthcare professional because there are so many possibilities of what may be causing it. So make an appointment with your dentist, who can give you a diagnosis and refer you to your family physician or another medical professional, if necessary.
Bad Breath Treatments
Maintaining good oral care habits are essential for preventing periodontal disease and avoidable causes of bad breath.
- Brushing twice a day and daily interdental cleaning will help control plaque development, and a tongue scraper will help control odor-causing bacteria that form on the tongue
- Rinsing with mouthwash after every meal can help reduce plaque and gingivitis and freshen your breath
- Cleaning between the teeth daily using floss or a water flosser is essential to keep the spaces in between your teeth clean and avoiding periodontal disease
- Visiting your dental professional regularly for a check-up and professional cleaning are also excellent steps for maintaining good oral health
How To Avoid Bad Breath
It's common knowledge that certain foods like raw onion or garlic cause bad breath. Such foods, when ingested and excreted by the lungs, cause halitosis. But avoiding acidic foods (like vinegar) or high-fructose foods (like sugary cereal) also cuts down on bad breath.
Instead, choose a diet that curbs intestinal upset and odor-causing bacteria. You should moderate your sugar intake and choose foods that increase saliva flow, including:
- Whole grains like brown rice
- Dark green and orange vegetables
- A variety of fruits and
- Proteins such as fish, beans, nuts or seeds.
Fennel increases saliva production and contains numerous antibacterial properties, and a few sprigs will do the trick after or between meals.
Although bad breath may not be serious, if simple self-care techniques don't correct the problem, you should consult a dental professional or physician. In some cases, bad breath may be caused by:
- Decayed teeth
- Dry mouth
- Oral infections
- Smoking and tobacco use
- Alcohol use
- Gastric reflux
- Sinus infections
- Liver and kidney infections, or diabetes
Fresh breath is a sign of a healthy mouth, and a healthy mouth is often a good indication of your overall health. Good daily oral hygiene habits are integral to fighting and preventing the underlying causes of bad breath.
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.