About Bad Breath

Bad Breath

Bad breath also called halitosis, can result from poor oral health habits or may be a sign of other health problems. The types of foods you eat can also contribute to bad breath.

Food and Bad Breath

As foods are digested and absorbed into the bloodstream, chemical by-products can be carried to your lungs and given off in your breath. If you eat foods with strong odors (such as garlic or onions), brushing and flossing, and even mouthwash, may only mask the odor temporarily. The odor will often not go away completely until the foods have been completely digested and passed.

Oral Hygiene and Bad Breath

Without proper brushing and flossing twice daily, food particles will remain in the mouth promoting bacterial growth around the teeth, gums and on the tongue. If dentures are used and not cleaned properly, bacteria will grow on the denture.  Bacterial growth is one of the major causes of bad breath. Antibacterial mouth rinses may help reduce the bacteria but not completely.  Good oral hygiene is vital when dealing with chronic bad breath.

Smoking or chewing tobacco-based products also can cause bad breath as well as stain teeth, reduce the ability to taste foods, and increase the risk for periodontal disease.

Gum Disease and Bad Breath

Persistent bad breath or a bad taste in the mouth may be a warning sign of gum disease (periodontal disease). Gum disease is caused by the buildup of plaque (bacteria and food particles) on teeth. Bacteria cause toxins to form, which irritate the gums. If gum disease continues untreated, it can irreversibly damage the gums as well as jawbone.

Other dental causes of bad breath include poorly fitting dental appliances, yeast infections of the mouth, and dental caries (cavities).

Medical Conditions and Bad Breath

Bad breath can be a sign of various medical conditions including respiratory tract infections, chronic sinus infections, postnasal dripdiabetes, gastro-esophageal reflux (GERD), liver and kidney disease or problems with the salivary glands.  The medical condition dry mouth (called xerostomia) can also cause bad breath. Saliva is necessary to moisten the mouth, neutralize acids produced by plaque, and wash away dead cells that accumulate on the tongue, gums, and cheeks. If not removed by a healthy flow of saliva, these cells decompose and can cause bad breath. Dry mouth may also be a side effect of various medications including beta blockers, steroids, asthma inhalers, and can also be caused by chronic mouth breathing. 

Bad Breath Prevention

Good oral hygiene – Brush at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste to remove food debris and plaque. Remember to also brush the tongue. Replace your toothbrush every 2 to 3 months or after an illness. Use floss or an interdental cleaner to remove food particles and plaque between teeth at least once a day. Rinse with an antibacterial mouthwash twice a day. Dentures should be removed daily and cleaned thoroughly.

Regular dental visits – See your dentist at least twice a year and more often if you have gum disease. A dentist will conduct an oral exam and professional teeth cleaning and will be able to detect and treat periodontal disease, dry mouth, or other problems that may cause bad breath. If the problem persists see a periodontist.

Stop smoking – This will improve your breath, reduce the risk of gum disease as well as cancer.  This includes chewing tobacco-based products. Ask your dentist or periodontist for tips on kicking the habit.

Drink lots of water – This will keep your mouth moist and is especially important if you suffer from dry mouth.  Chewing gum or mints (sugarless or with Xylitol) stimulates the production of saliva, which helps wash away food particles and bacteria reducing bad breath. Chewing gums and mints with Xylitol are best.

Treatment of Bad Breath

In some cases, your regular dentist can treat the cause of bad breath. If your dentist determines that the odor is not of dental origin, or that you have gum disease or other unhealthy conditions you may be referred to a Periodontist to help