What Causes Bad Breath?

Come on, admit it. You’ve suffered from bad breath. Everyone has. It’s one of life’s most common annoyances. The good news is we can do something about it. But first, you need to know where it comes from.

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The Beginnings of Bad Breath

Bad breath starts with what you put in your mouth. Garlic for lunch? A late-morning latte? They may taste delicious, but consider yourself warned.

Food you eat: Although garlic and coffee are two main offenders, other eats like onions and spicy food also can bring on bad breath. The odors of these foods enter your bloodstream and head right to your lungs, coming out with each exhale.

Food "trapped" in your mouth: We're not talking about just a little spinach on your teeth. After a meal, any food particles that remain between your teeth, in your gums, or on your tongue can release their odor into your breath -- which gets worse as that food decays. And without good care of your teeth and gums, this stuck food can set off a cascade of events leading to gum disease.

Tobacco: There are lots of reasons to avoid tobacco; bad breath is one on the list.

Diets that lead to weight loss: We agree that it seems unjust, but when your body breaks down fat, the process releases chemicals that can give your breath an unpleasant smell.

Dry mouth: Feeling parched? Saliva’s job is to serve as a continuous rinse cycle for your mouth. If you don’t have enough, your mouth loses its freshness fast. In fact, morning breath is worse for people who sleep with their mouths open. A dry mouth is a smelly mouth.

Medications or health issues: Drugs that cause dry mouth can also contribute to bad breath. Health problems such as seasonal allergies, chronic sinusitis, bronchitis, respiratory infections, stomach problems, diabetes, and liver and kidney diseases factor in, too. Unrelenting bad breath may also be a sign of gum disease.

How to Make Your Breath Better

There are some quick and easy ways to banish bad breath. Just remember, the odor from what you eat can stick around until the food works its way completely out of your system -- up to 3 days later!

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Clean those teeth: Not only do they prevent odor-causing plaque from building up in your mouth, but brushing, flossing and rinsing are healthy for your gums and teeth, too. If you can’t brush after a meal, give your mouth a good rinse with water to at least loosen up and free those trapped bits.

Clean that tongue: Bacteria on your tongue can contribute to bad breath. When you brush your teeth, brush your tongue, too, or use a tongue scraper.

Use a mouthwash or dental rinse. Antiseptic mouthwash can help kill bacteria that cause bad breath and plaque that can lead to gingivitis, an early, mild form of gum disease. Adding a fluoride rinse to your daily routine can help prevent tooth decay.

Drink water: If your bad breath is caused by weight loss, water can dilute the chemicals that cause the odors. Water also helps wash away bacteria and food particles.

Eat breakfast: Even if you brush your teeth when you get up, your morning breath may reappear if you don't eat. Morning mouth may be associated with hunger.

Eat a hard fruit or vegetable: Apples, carrots, celery, and other hard fruits and vegetables help clear odor-causing plaque and food particles from your mouth.

Chew sugarless gum with xylitol: Gum with the natural sweetener xylitol can prevent the growth of bad-breath bacteria. The gum itself can bring more saliva to your mouth, which will naturally make your mouth fresher.

Take care of health problems: Work with your doctor to keep diabetes, allergies, and other conditions under control.


 

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Alfred D. Wyatt Jr., DMD on June 01, 2018

Sources

SOURCES:

American Dental Association: "Bad Breath (Halitosis)," "Brushing Your Teeth."

Academy of General Dentistry: "What is Halitosis?" "Does a Smaller Waist Mean Smelly Breath?"

NutritionMD.org: "Allergic Rhinitis and Sinusitis." 

American Dental Hygienists Association: "Bad Breath Fact Sheet."

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