What Causes Bad Breath?
Bad breath, also known as halitosis or fetor oris, is an unpleasant and persistent odor in exhaled breath. It is mostly caused by sulfur-producing bacteria that live on the surface of the tongue and in the throat. The odor could be a result of an underlying health condition. It can happen anytime in one’s life due to different types of bad breath-causing bacteria. This bad breath could be temporary and could become chronic if not treated or prevented. At least 50 percent of adults have had halitosis in their lifetime, according to the American Dental Association.
13 Causes of Bad Breath
This is a common cause of halitosis. The production of saliva nearly stops when one is asleep, which gives way to odor-causing bacteria growth which causes bad breath.
Food particles when broken down in and around your teeth can increase bacteria and cause a foul odor. Some types of food such as garlic, onions, and spices can cause bad breath. Once one digests such foods, they enter the bloodstream, are carried to the lungs, and affect one’s breath.
Some medications contribute to dry mouth, which can produce bad breath. It can be broken down in the body to release chemicals that can be carried
on one’s breath.
Poor Dental Hygiene
Having bad dental hygiene comes from not brushing and flossing daily, and this can lead to bad breath and some other oral hygiene issues. For instance, food particles remain in the mouth, and a colorless sticky film of bacteria forms on the teeth. If it is not brushed away, this bacteria can irritate the gums and eventually form periodontitis, which is plaque-filled pockets between the teeth and gums. The tongue can also trap bacteria that produce odors. Denture, when not cleaned properly and regularly, can harbor odor-causing bacteria and food particles.
Taking products that contain tobacco can also cause bad breath. Smokers and oral tobacco users are also likely to have gum disease which leads to bad breath.
Dry mouth, also called xerostomia, can cause bad breath because the production of saliva is decreased. Saliva helps to cleanse the mouth by removing particles that cause bad odors. The dry mouth normally occurs during sleep, which leads to morning breath, and it worsens when one sleeps with the mouth open.
Infections in the Mouth
Post-oral surgery wounds that come from tooth removal or as a result of tooth decay, gum disease, or mouth sores can also cause bad breath.
Nose and Throat Conditions
Bad breath can develop if one has a sinus infection, postnasal drainage, chronic bronchitis, or an infection in the upper or lower respiratory system.
Bad breath can be symptoms of some diseases such as diabetes, kidney disease or failure, sleep apnea, liver disease or failure, or gastroesophageal reflux disorder (GERD)
Fasting and low carbs can cause bad breath. The breakdown of fats produces chemicals called ketones, which have a strong smell.
Some people’s breath can smell like feces if there has been a prolonged period of vomiting.
This is swelling or infection in the lungs or airways due to inhaling food, saliva, or vomit.
This is a long-term condition whereby the airways become wider than normal, which allows for a build-up of mucus that leads to bad breath.
Symptoms of Bad Breath
- constant sour, bitter metallic taste
- morning bad breath and a burning tongue
- dry mouth
- build up around the teeth
- a white coating on the tongue, especially at the back of it
- a constant need to clear your throat of thick saliva
How to Diagnose Bad Breath
A dentist can tell if one has halitosis and also rate the severity with the detectors states below.
This test helps measure three volatile sulfur compounds: methyl mercaptan, hydrogen sulfide, and dimethyl sulfide.
This measures the level of a specific enzyme produced by halitosis-causing bacteria.
This is a device that helps detect low levels of sulfur
This helps detect levels of enzyme beta-galactosidase which correlate with mouth odor.
Treatment Options for Bad Breath
The treatment for bad breath varies, depending on the cause. If it is related to an underlying health condition, your dentist will most likely refer you to a primary care provider. However, here are some measures one can take to improve oral health.
Use a Mouth Rinse and Toothpaste
Your doctor can recommend a mouth rinse that kills bacteria if your bad breath is caused by a buildup of bacteria on your teeth. Also, toothpaste brands that kill bacteria will work effectively.
Treat Underlying Dental Disease
This is another preventive measure that you can take in treating bad breath. People with gum disease may be referred to a gum specialist. They`ll get a professional cleaning of their gum to get rid of the bacteria. A faulty tooth can also be replaced to prevent the growth of bacteria.
Brush your Teeth After Eating
Brushing the teeth after eating can help reduce antibacterial properties. Make use of fluoride-containing toothpaste at least twice a day after meals.
Floss at least once a day. Proper flossing will help remove hidden food particles and plaque from between the teeth.
Scrape your Tongue
To get rid of the coating that usually forms on the tongue, and further eliminate smelly bacteria, you should brush your tongue gently with a toothbrush, or better still, use a tongue scraper.
Consume Fruits Often
Fruits such as orange which contain vitamin C help increase saliva production, thereby eliminating bad breath. Apples too are great, as they contain certain natural products that neutralize the foul-smelling compounds in garlic.
Always keep your mouth moist. Avoid tobacco and drink lots of water. Also, chewing gum or licking a candy can help stimulate saliva. People with chronic dry mouth can take an artificial saliva preparation or an oral medication that builds up saliva.
Get a New Toothbrush
Change your toothbrush regularly, as old toothbrushes usually garner much bacteria.
Make adjustments to your diet; avoid foods like onions and garlic that cause bad breath. Also, stay away from sugary foods because they can cause bad breath.
Regular Dental Checkup
Visit your dentist at least once or twice a year to have your teeth cleaned and examined.
When to See a Doctor
See a doctor if you experience any of the following:
- You still have bad breath after self-treatment
- Bad breath comes with chest pain or heartburn
- You have a nasal discharge with pus or a fever
- You have mouth sores
Now that you Know…
Poor dental hygiene is the most common cause of bad breath. If one doesn’t brush or floss often, the bacteria in the mouth will continue to grow, which may cause infection and lead to bad breath. It is advised that one maintains proper dental hygiene to prevent embarrassment. Also, ensure you see your doctor if the source of your bad breath comes from another area in the body. Bad breath could be a result of other underlying medical conditions that one may not be aware of. Great oral health will boost your confidence level and help you avoid those trips to the dentist`s.