What is Bad Breath?
Bad breath also known as halitosis, is an unpleasant smell coming from the mouth. Halitosis can occur on occasion, or it can be a chronic condition. It may be caused by foods a person eats, poor oral hygiene, diseases, or other factors.
What Causes Bad Breath?
- Food: Food is a primary source of bad odor that comes from the mouth. Some foods such as garlic, onions, beans, spices, locust beans, fish, and beverages such as coffee can leave a lingering smell. Most of the time, the odor is short lived. Other foods may get stuck in the teeth, promoting the growth of bacteria and dental plaques, which causes bad breath odor.
- Smoking: Smoking and chewing tobacco can leave chemicals that remain in the mouth. These chemicals give off bad smell. Smoking is a risk factor for gum disease or oral cancers. Gum disease and oral cancers can also cause bad breath.
- Poor oral health: When a person does not brush or floss his/her teeth regularly, food particles remaining in the mouth can rot and cause bad odors. Poor dental care can lead to a buildup of plaque (tartar) in the mouth, which causes an odor of its own. Plaque (tartar) buildup on the teeth can also lead to an unhealthy condition called periodontal (gum) disease.
- Medical Conditions: Sinus infections, pneumonia, sore throat (pharyngitis) and other throat infections, the common cold, influenza (flu), tonsil stones, thrush, bronchitis, postnasal drip, diabetes, gastroesophageal reflux disease, lactose intolerance, other stomach or digestion problems, and some liver diseases or kidney diseases may be associated with bad breath.
- Dry mouth: Saliva helps moisten and cleanse the mouth, and when the body does not produce enough saliva, bad breath may result. Dry mouth may be caused by prolonged fasting, medical condition such as salivary gland problems, connective tissue disorders (Sjogren’s syndrome), medications, or breathing through the mouth. It is thus important to visit your dentist whenever you feel you have a bad breath.
- Cavities: Holes on the teeth are a source of food packing and thus over time, the food particle gets degraded by bacteria and cause bad odor from the mouth.
- Dentures or braces: Food particles not properly cleaned from appliances can get stuck on them and then rot or cause bacteria and then bad odor.
- Medications: Many medications, including antihistamines to treat allergies and diuretics, can cause dry mouth, which can cause bad breath.
- “Morning breath”: Bad breath in the morning is very common. Saliva production nearly stops during sleep, allowing odor-causing bacteria to grow, causing bad breath.
- Pregnancy: Being pregnant in itself does not cause bad breath, but the nausea and morning sickness common during pregnancy may cause bad breath. In addition, hormonal changes, dehydration, swollen (bleeding) gums and eating different foods due to cravings may also contribute to bad breath during pregnancy.
How Do I Know If I have Bad Breath?
It is generally simple to tell if you have bad breath. Others may notice someone has halitosis before the person does, so another person may tell him or her about their bad breath or give them a larger than normal personal space. The most obvious sign or symptom of bad breath is noticing an unpleasant smell coming from the mouth. You may also notice the following:
- unpleasant or sour taste or changes in taste;
- dry mouth;
- a coating on the tongue.
How Can I Manage Bad Breath?
The first stop when you have halitosis is usually your dentist. Identifying the cause of the bad breath is essential in properly managing it. If your dentist determines you have a healthy mouth, he/she will refer you to an appropriate physician to look for an underlying condition.