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We’ve all come across someone with bad breath. In most cases, bad breath isn’t serious, but if it lasts longer than a few weeks, it may be evidence of a deeper underlying problem. Halitosis is the medical term for bad breath, and if you’ve ever had it, you shouldn’t feel bad. About 1 in 5 people in the general population suffer from it, and many people who think they have it actually don’t.

In some cases, the causes of bad breath are simple and preventable so others are quick to judge, but there are rare exceptions in which someone’s halitosis may actually require medical attention. Knowing what causes bad breath can help identify the difference. In most cases, bad breath isn’t serious, but if it lasts longer than a few weeks, it may be evidence of a deeper underlying problem.

10 Bad Breath Causes

In order to get rid of bad breath, the first thing you need to know is why it’s happening. There are basically 10 common causes of bad breath:

  1. Drinking and Eating Certain Foods and Drinks: When it comes to certain drinks and foods, coffee, garlic, and onions, are classic ‘no-no’s’. It’s a shame because these are delicious foods, but that taste can linger once it’s absorbed into the bloodstream. Not only is the smell expelled through the breath, but the odors remain until the body processes the food.
  2. Plaque Buildup: Some people think they know how to brush their teeth properly when they actually do not. When you don’t brush properly, or often enough, bacteria can form in your mouth, and it’s one of the primary causes of bad breath. This bacteria feeds on the food particles left behind on your teeth and gums and produces waste products that release foul odors (Gross, I know). If you have braces, you should take extra care to remove food particles from your mouth, because the braces can trap the food.
  3. Dry Mouth: When your mouth is extremely dry, there isn’t enough saliva to wash away excess food particles and bacteria. Over time, this can cause an unpleasant smell if they build up on the teeth. Both stress and breathing through your mouth can cause dry mouth. Also, certain medications have dry mouth as a side effect, so check the medications you take regularly to see if they are the culprit. Make sure to drink plenty of water to stay hydrated, especially when you’re exercising or drinking something dehydrating like coffee. Breathing through your mouth can also cause the saliva you produce to evaporate rapidly. That’s why many people who breathe through their mouth when they sleep get a dry mouth and wake up with bad breath.
  4. Morning Breath: Have you ever wondered why you wake up every morning with bad breath? Your mouth produces less saliva while you’re sleeping so food particle bacteria multiply faster while you sleep. That’s why bad breath odors are typically worse when you first wake up.
  5. Infections: If you have an infection in your mouth from a wound, it’s an easy target for bacteria build-up. If you’re having oral surgery (having your wisdom teeth pulled for example), be sure to keep an eye on the infection. A medical professional can prescribe antibiotics to help minimize the infection. If you’re having teeth removed, it’s possible that you may need to deal with bad breath, as well. When your teeth are extracted, bacteria can get inside your wounds and this is what causes halitosis. Your dentist may provide antibiotics to help, but if the infection persists and causes chronic bad breath for more than a few days, you may need to see your dentist to have the wound cleaned. Bacteria can also infect your gums when they’re not healthy or when they are compromised by other health issues or physical injury.
  6. Medical Conditions: Halitosis can be the result of certain conditions, such as tonsil stones, respiratory tract infections, chronic sinusitis, chronic bronchitis, diabetes, gastrointestinal disturbance, or liver or kidney ailments. If you suspect that your bad breath may be the result of something chronic, speak to a medical professional.
  7. Infrequent Flossing: People tend to think that brushing teeth is necessary and flossing is optional. But when you don’t floss, small particles of food can get stuck between your teeth and around your gums. These are places toothbrushes can’t get it. When food particles are left behind, they start to collect bacteria, which in turn causes halitosis.
  8. Tongue Bacteria: Bacterial growth on the tongue accounts for 80‒90 percent of all cases of mouth-related bad breath. Poor oral hygiene results in plaque bacteria being left behind on your teeth and gums. This bacteria produces foul-smelling waste products that cause bad breath. This can lead to gingivitis, tooth decay, and cavities.
  9. Smoking: Smoking is a major cause of bad breath. Your body will thank you for giving up smoking, but your friends will, too. One of the bad parts is that you can become so accustomed to it that you don’t smell it anymore. Your bad breath may be due to other causes, too, but tobacco use is a guarantee of bad breath. If you’re ready to quit, feel free to ask us for advice and support.
  10. Postnasal Drip: If you have sinusitis or inflammation of the sinuses, mucus can get caught in the back of your throat, which can cause postnasal drip. The mucus can collect bacteria, and to make matters worse, now you have postnasal drip bad breath. Often, drinking lots of water and taking a decongestant can help with sinusitis, but if you have severe symptoms or your symptoms have lasted longer than a few weeks, you should talk to your doctor.

Now that you know the causes, you are one step closer to solving your halitosis problem! Make an appointment with us if you have any questions!