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Bad Breath And Its Relationship To Oral And Systemic Diseases

Published date field Last Updated:

Medically Reviewed By Colgate Global Scientific Communications

A tiny mint here. Minty gum there. Some mouthwash in between. All are good at managing bad breath, also known as halitosis. But bad breath can be much more than the embarrassing result of an overly garlicky Italian meal or too many cups of coffee. Learn what causes bad breath and how it may relate to systemic diseases.

What Are The Causes Of Bad Breath:

Like most ailments, pinpointing the cause can help determine the proper solution and treatment. And these causes of bad breath all vary in severity to your overall health. According to the Mayo Clinic, most start in your mouth and include:

  • Food: Food particles stuck in your teeth can cause bad breath as they enter your bloodstream and lungs after digestion. Foods like onions, garlic, and other spices also create a bad odor.
  • Tobacco: The effects of smoking can also cause bad breath. Smoking and oral tobacco can lead to gum disease, which then can cause bad breath.
  • Poor dental hygiene: Brushing and flossing regularly are crucial in avoiding bad breath. Without proper hygiene, plaque can form, leading to bad breath. Not cleaning your dentures and tongue can also create odor-causing bacteria as well.
  • Dry mouth: Dry mouth, or xerostomia, can cause bad breath as saliva aids in cleansing your mouth and removing food particles that can cause an odor.
  • Medications: Certain medications can cause bad breath by either the chemicals released within them or the dry mouth side effect they create.
  • Infections in your mouth: Inflammed areas of tooth decay, gum disease, mouth sores, and infected wounds from oral surgery, like tooth removal, can cause bad breath.
  • Other mouth, nose, and throat conditions: Certain conditions in the mouth, nose, and throat like bacteria-covered stones in your tonsils and infections in the nose, sinuses, or throat can lead to bad breath.
  • Systemic diseases: Certain diseases from diabetes, liver, kidney, lung, sinus diseases, some cancers, and GI disorders create chemicals within your body that result in bad breath.

How does Oral Disease Relate to Systemic Disease?

The relationship between oral health and certain systemic diseases is a significant one, according to the American Dental Association. When gum tissue becomes inflamed, causing gingivitis, inflammatory mediators in the gum tissue can enter your saliva and lungs. Similarly, bacteria from periodontitis can enter your bloodstream around your teeth and travel throughout your body.

Who Should You See If You Have Bad Breath?

Finding the cause of your bad breath will help determine who you should see if problems persist.

  • Diet: Consult with a dietician or nutritionist who can work with you to modify your diet.
  • Oral hygiene: See your dentist, periodontist, or dental hygienist to improve gingivitis and receive thorough oral hygiene instruction for home care.
  • Tonsils and respiratory infections: Follow up with your physician or a specialist such as an ear, nose, and throat doctor or pulmonologist.
  • Dry mouth: Your dentist and dental hygienist can help determine the reasons for your dry mouth and recommend prescription medications or over-the-counter products that can provide relief from symptoms.
  • Systemic diseases: See your physician or your specialist for their insights on how to reduce bad breath.

If you have any concerns, contact your dental or medical professional right away to discuss your bad breath treatment options.


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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.

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