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Bad Breath: Causes and How to Avoid it

Maybe one of the most embarrassing things has happened. You’re heading up a meeting and realize your breath isn’t as fresh as it could be, or you lean down to give your toddler a kiss goodnight, and she says, ever so kindly, “your breath smells funny.” It’s a common malady, but definitely one nobody wants. Let’s spend some time talking about how to avoid bad breath, medically known as halitosis, and what can cause it.

Dental concerns to avoid bad breath

Since you’re at a dental website, let’s start here. Routine dental care can be a first line defense against bad breath, both at home and your routine cleanings and exams. Daily brushing and flossing removes food debris and bacteria before they become a bigger problem. Food left in your mouth overnight is the same as leaving a plate of food on the counter until morning, it’s not very appealing and doesn’t smell as good as last night’s dinner did. Just like the plates on the counter are sticky and hard to clean, your teeth begin to form a sticky film called plaque. This bacteria, if left to grow, can eventually grow into the gum area and even between the teeth and gums leading to swelling and infection which will exacerbate bad breath even further (known as periodontitis).

If you wear dentures, you’re not out of the danger zone with routine dental care. Dentures can harbor the same bacteria and food particles and must be cleaned regularly to remove said bacteria. Routine dental visits are a must for denture wearers as well, not only for routine oral exams but to make sure your dentures still fit well and are not in need of repair. Ill-fitting dentures act much in the same way as periodontitis and allow bacteria to grow and flourish in the mouth.

Correcting bad breath from dental concerns can be as simple as visiting your dentist for cleaning and exams and then continuing those as often as necessary to get your mouth healthy. You may also receive training on proper oral health care to include correct brushing techniques, flossing instruction, and proper mouthwash instruction.

Lifestyle habits that cause stinky breath

Lifestyle habits may often be overlooked as a cause for bad breath. Though everybody knows that smoking can cause yellow teeth from the tobacco, not many people think of the longer term bad breath that tobacco causes. Hours after your last cigarette, your mouth is still experiencing the effects of cigarettes or chewing tobacco. Your salivary glands remain inflamed, plaque and tartar are increased in relation to non-smokers, and you may still be experiencing dry mouth symptoms.

Just like smoking can cause bad breath, drinking alcohol can as well, especially if you drink excessively. Alcohol is a diuretic which means basically that it dehydrates you, the reason for the morning after headache. When you awake in the morning, you may have dry mouth due to this diuretic processes. Bacteria in the mouth flourish when there isn’t enough saliva to rinse it out, and a heavy night of drinking allows this to happen.

The type of foods you eat can also contribute to bad breath. Garlic, onions, and certain spices can cause chronic bad breath. Coffee is also a contributor to bad breath. Anyone who has been on low carb diet has probably experienced “ketone breath” which is caused by the body burning excess fat as energy.
Correcting bad breath from lifestyle habits sounds as easy as changing your habits, but we all know that’s easier said than done. Stopping smoking and drinking takes a lot of willpower and dedication, and many people lapse back into those habits. There are many smoking and drinking cessation programs available to help you and don’t underestimate your family and friends as a support group.

Cutting down on coffee and eating a healthy, balanced diet will also be beneficial in helping with bad breath.

Medical Conditions can cause bad breath

Certain medical conditions can also cause, or contribute to, bad breath. Dry mouth, or Xerostomia, is a condition where you don’t produce sufficient saliva. Dry mouth is a huge contributor of not only day time bad breath, but is the leading cause of “morning breath.”

Certain acute infections, such as bronchitis, sinusitis, and pneumonia, can cause temporary bad breath. Bacterial and fungal infections in the mouth can also be contributors. Diabetes, acid reflux and liver or kidney disease can contribute to long term bad breath.

Pregnancy, in and of itself, does not cause bad breath, but the nausea and morning sickness that many women have, along with hormonal changes and food cravings all contribute to bad breath in at least part of the pregnancy.
If you have an acute infection or are pregnant, the bad breath you’re experiencing will go away on its own. You can try breath mints or sugarless gum to help the symptoms. Also, even though you may not be feeling well, try to brush and floss on a regular basis and drink plenty of water.

Additional treatment to avoid bad breath

Outside of the ways we’ve already discussed, bad breath can be treated a few other ways. If you are doing everything you can and still suffer from bad breath, you dentist may prescribe special toothpaste and mouth rinses to help with the oral bacteria. Depending on your situation, artificial saliva can also be prescribed.

Some people notice improvement using natural remedies such as mint, drinking stinging nettle tea, taking probiotics, and taking zinc supplements. Salt water gargles can help with bad breath as can a diluted peroxide gargle or baking soda gargles. Some superfoods have also been linked to a decrease in bad breath, a couple of good ones to try are Chlorophyll tablets and Chorella tablets. Perhaps the best natural defense against bad breath is plenty of good old fashioned water. Drinking water throughout the day helps keep your mouth tissues hydrated and also helps flush out food debris and bacteria.

None of us want bad breath and will do almost anything to get rid of it. We hope the information above is helpful and as always if you have any concerns or questions regarding bad breath, or any dental question, please feel free to contact your dentist or hygienist for assistance.