What Causes Halitosis?

FEW THINGS ARE WORSE at a first date or a job interview than the sudden awareness that bad breath might have ruined your first impression. No matter what else goes right, if the date or potential employer has a nose full of funky smells, it probably isn’t going to end well. So how can we stop bad breath from ruining those big moments? What causes bad breath anyway?

The Simple Answer: Oral Hygiene

The most common cause of bad breath is the chemical breakdown of leftover food particles stuck between our teeth. Oral bacteria eat these particles and then excrete very smelly compounds like hydrogen sulfide (which smells like rotten eggs), turning our breath sour. Fortunately, the solution is also simple: brush twice a day, floss daily, use a tongue-scraper to get extra bacteria off your tongue, and chew sugar-free gum after lunch if necessary.

Sometimes Halitosis Is More Complicated

Unfortunately, not everyone who struggles with bad breath can solve it with a good daily oral hygiene routine alone. Plenty of other things can cause halitosis.

  • Mouth-breathing dries out the mouth, which means there isn’t enough saliva to wash away food particles and neutralize acids, so it’s much easier to get smelly.
  • Medications commonly cause dry mouth as a side effect, which leads to the same problems as with mouth-breathing.
  • Chronic health conditions (even ones without an obvious connection to breath freshness), such as acid reflux, liver or kidney disease, and diabetes.
  • Having a cold or sinus infection can mean a lot of smelly mucous that affects the way breath smells.
  • Pregnancy symptoms like morning sickness and nausea can affect breath because they increase the amount of acid in the mouth. People struggling with bulimia may have a similar problem.
  • Using tobacco products in any form will leave foul-smelling compounds in the mouth as well as drying it out. It also raises the risk of developing gum disease or oral cancer.
  • Untreated tooth decay or gum disease tends to go hand-in-hand with halitosis. That’s because the same bacteria that causes bad breath also causes cavities and periodontitis!

Managing and Combating Halitosis

When brushing, flossing, and tongue scraping aren’t enough to keep your breath minty fresh, it’s critical to discover the underlying cause so that you can address it directly instead of only attacking a symptom. We encourage habitual mouth-breathers to try breathing through their noses more. We encourage anyone who smokes or chews tobacco to quit. If the problem is related to dry mouth, sugar-free gum helps to stimulate saliva production, and sipping water and using a humidifier can also help keep the moisture up.

Call in the Professionals!

If you have any concerns about stubborn bad breath, the dentist is a great ally to turn to. The dentist can help you discover what’s causing the bad breath and recommend the best solutions, so make sure to bring all of your questions to your next dental exam!

Thank you for being part of our practice family!

Top image used under CC0 Public Domain license. Image cropped and modified from original.
The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.
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