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Bad breath

Last Updated: 15.11.2023

Author: George Ghidrai, MD  

Bad breath, medically called halitosis, is a very common problem and there are many different causes. Most often, bad breath results from poor dental health habits or it may be a sign of oral health problems. However, in some cases bad breath can be caused by some general medical conditions.

bad breath

What causes bad breath?

a. Poor dental health habits

If you don't brush and floss teeth daily, food particles can remain in your mouth and get caught between the teeth and on the tongue. The food particles will decay, promoting bacterial growth, which will cause an unpleasant smell (because of the smelly gases released by the bacteria during the process of fermentation).

Strong foods like garlic, coffee and onions can add to the problem. If you eat foods with strong odors, brushing and flossing, (even mouthwash) merely covers up the odor temporarily. The odor will not go away completely until the foods have passed through your body.

In addition, food particles can cause bad breath if dentures are not properly cleaned. Dentures have to be cleaned at least once a day with soap and lukewarm water, a denture cream or a denture-cleaning tablet.

Smoking can cause its own form of bad breath. Smoking can also stain teeth, reduce the ability to taste foods, and irritate the gums.

b. Dental health problems

Tooth decay can cause bad breath especially if extensive. Large cavities can hold food fragments and may cause bad breath and foul tastes.

One of the warning signs of gum disease is bad breath and a persistent metallic taste in the mouth. An early treatment is indicated, before the disease advances, causing more destruction to the gums and other periodontal tissues.

Other dental causes of bad breath include poorly fitting dental restorations, a dental crown or bridge that has become loose and yeast infections of the mouth.

The medical condition dry mouth (also called xerostomia) can also cause bad breath. Saliva is necessary to moisten the mouth, neutralize acids produced by plaque, and wash away dead cells and food debris that accumulate on the tongue, gums, and cheeks.

Dry mouth may be a side effect of various medications, salivary gland problems, or continuous breathing through the mouth.

c. General health problems

Many other diseases and illnesses may cause bad breath. These include infections in the throat, nose or lungs, sinusitis, bronchitis, diabetes, or liver or kidney problems.

How can I prevent bad breath?

There are many things you can do to prevent bad breath :

What if I continue to suffer from bad breath?

If you continue to suffer from bad breath, it is very important to see your dentist. He or she can treat any oral health problems. If your dentist finds that your mouth is healthy, you may be referred to a specialist to find out the cause of your bad breath.

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