Bad breath, also known as halitosis, can be embarrassing and may even lead to anxiety. Numerous products like gum, mints, and mouthwashes are available in stores to combat bad breath. However, if bad breath persists (chronic halitosis), it could indicate an oral health issue or a condition affecting another part of the body.
Certain foods, health conditions, and habits contribute to bad breath. Consistent and proper dental hygiene can often improve the situation. If self-care techniques fail to resolve the problem, it’s advisable to consult a dentist or physician to rule out any serious underlying condition causing the bad breath.
Halitosis is most common caused by inadequate oral hygiene practices. Without regular brushing, flossing, and routine dental cleanings, harmful bacteria can thrive in the mouth, leading to uncontrolled multiplication. Consequently, this may result in various oral health problems, such as halitosis, cavities, and gum disease.
If you continue to experience bad breath even after implementing these changes, it is advisable to schedule an appointment with your dentist. In situations where your dentist suspects a more severe underlying cause for the bad breath, they may recommend seeking further evaluation from a physician to identify the root source of the odor.
The primary source of bad breath is often the mouth, and there are numerous potential factors contributing to it. These causes include:
- Food: When food particles linger in and around your teeth, they attract bacteria and lead to foul-smelling breath. Certain foods like onions, garlic, and spices can also cause bad breath as their odors are carried to the lungs through the bloodstream.
- Tobacco products: Smoking and using oral tobacco can cause unpleasant mouth odor. These habits also increase the risk of gum disease, which can contribute to bad breath.
- Poor dental hygiene: Not brushing and flossing regularly allows food particles to remain in your mouth, leading to bad breath. Bacteria form a sticky film called plaque on your teeth, and if not removed, it can irritate your gums and result in periodontitis. Bacteria on the tongue can also cause odors. Improperly cleaned dentures can harbor odor-causing bacteria.
- Dry mouth: Saliva helps cleanse the mouth by removing odor-causing particles. Reduced saliva production, known as dry mouth or xerostomia, can lead to bad breath, especially during sleep or if you sleep with your mouth open. Chronic dry mouth can be caused by salivary gland problems or certain diseases.
- Medications: Some medications can indirectly cause bad breath by contributing to dry mouth. Others can break down in the body and release chemicals that affect your breath.
- Mouth infections: Bad breath may result from surgical wounds after oral surgery, tooth decay, gum disease, or mouth sores.
- Other mouth, nose, and throat conditions: Small stones in the tonsils covered with bacteria can cause bad breath. Infections or chronic inflammation in the nose, sinuses, or throat can lead to postnasal drip and contribute to bad breath.
- Other health conditions: Certain diseases and metabolic disorders can produce distinct breath odors due to the chemicals they release. Chronic acid reflux (GERD) can also be associated with bad breath. In young children, a foreign object stuck in a nostril can lead to bad breath.