Definition

Sometimes called halitosis, bad breath is usually caused by poor oral hygiene habits, infections that occur in the mouth, unhealthy habits, such as smoking and alcohol intake, and foods that 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.

Signs & Symptoms

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 symptoms can be poor oral hygiene caused by the dental plaque, food debris and development of gingivitis. Because it's difficult to assess how your own breath smells, try to smell your breath by placing your hand over your nose and mouth and breath, ask a relative, and consider seeing a dental professional to confirm if bad breath is an issue for you and to ask how to treat it.

Cause

Most bad breath starts in your mouth, and there are many possible causes that include: certain foods you eat (garlic and onions, in particular), alcohol or cigarettes, poor oral hygiene, gum disease, diabetes, dry mouth, sinus or throat infections, lung infections, kidney/liver failure and gastrointestinal issues.

Diagnosis

Determining the cause 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.

Treatment

Always make sure you’re practicing great oral care habits. Brushing twice a day and flossing daily will help to control plaque development and use of a tongue scraper will help control odor causing bacteria that form on the tongue. Use of floss is important to keep the spaces in between your teeth clean. Regular dental visits twice a year for a check-up and professional cleaning are also excellent steps.

Related Conditions

Although bad breath may be nothing serious, if simple self-care techniques don’t solve the problem, you should consult with your dentist or physician.

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