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Halitosis: Causes Of Bad Breath

Suppose you're nervous about the state of your breath. In that case, it's important to remember that most cases of chronic halitosis or bad breath smell come down to daily habits. The good news? Most of these every day, habits can be modified to help you breathe a little easier (and fresher). Discover why not eating can make your breath smell, how underlying illnesses can temporarily contribute to halitosis, and check out some common-sense oral hygiene habits to help make bad breath disappear fast.

What's causing breath odor?

Poor oral hygiene is usually the underlying factor in the majority of halitosis issues. Luckily, that makes it an easy fix when you change your daily oral habits in two easy ways.

1. Brush more! Brush your teeth and gumline twice daily for at least 120 seconds. Include your tongue while you brush; it carries just as many odors as the particles stuck between your teeth.

2. Brush at the right time. For example, if possible, try to brush your teeth after you eat breakfast instead of before. You want to remove any odor-causing bacteria caused by food particles before you leave the house, keeping your breath fresh.

How does food cause bad breath?

You've probably enjoyed a pizza topped with garlic and onions and thought your breath stinks or smells after eating. But it's not a reason to worry; it's a normal part of the chewing and digestion process. When you chew food, particles get lodged between teeth and collect bacteria creating an odor until you brush and floss them away. In addition, after you digest certain foods, they enter your bloodstream, are carried to your lungs, and affect your breath. If you're unable to brush after you eat to remove these particles, the Mayo Clinic suggests avoiding these particular foods and beverages:

  • Garlic
  • Onions
  • Coffee
  • Alcohol

You should feel free to eat the foods you love, but if you find that certain foods make your breath stink keep a portable toothbrush or mouthwash handy for a quick rinse.

How does illness affect halitosis?

Suppose you feel as though you have bad breath before eating. In that case, the cause of your halitosis may instead be a side effect of an underlying disease or temporary illness. Conditions that can cause bad breath include:

  • Diabetes
  • Sinus infections
  • Acid reflux
  • Liver or kidney disease
  • Chronic respiratory diseases
  • Viruses that affect the sinuses, nasal passages, and throat

If your bad breath is a symptom of one of these disorders, treating the root cause first is the best way to reduce your bad breath.

How does dry mouth create bad breath?

Dry mouth means you don't have enough saliva (spit) to keep your mouth wet. Whether it's due to certain medical treatments and medications, smoking, or mouth breathing, one of the resulting outcomes can be halitosis. Bad breath occurs because saliva helps you digest food, prevents infection, and clears out odor-causing bacteria, so a lack of saliva can cause issues. Learn more about dry mouth causes and treatments.

How does smoking impact bad breath?

Beyond the effects of smoking on teeth, tobacco products, whether they are smoked or chewed, leave a residual smell on your breath. If tobacco use is a habit, it can also cause a buildup of bacteria in the mouth, creating an odor. Want to quit? Your dentist can play a role in smoking cessation and can help increase your rate of successfully quitting.

What dental problems can cause bad breath?

According to the Mayo Clinic, halitosis can be the result of gum disease and tooth decay. Dental issues can encourage bacteria to hide in cavities or pockets around the gums caused by conditions such as gingivitis and periodontal disease. Short-term breath-freshening methods might mask the problem, but the smell can remain when the core issues go unchecked. Work with your dentist to solve the underlying issue to make it easier to tackle the bad breath that issues might bring.

How do I keep my breath fresh?

Visiting your dental hygienist for professional cleaning, brushing your teeth after every meal, flossing at least once per day, and using mouthwash regularly can reduce or eliminate bad breath in many cases. Suppose your bad breath results from a chronic issue such as tooth decay or illness. In that case, you'll need to see a healthcare professional because gum and mouthwash will only mask the problem for a little while. In most cases, the prognosis for chronic halitosis is good.

Taking steps to determine the cause of your bad breath, improving oral care, and changing diet and habits can lead to fresher breath, and that's something to smile about!

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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