Halitosis, more commonly known as bad breath, can have a large number of causes. Some of the most common causes include periodontal disease, tooth decay, mouth dryness, odor-causing foods, tobacco use, sinus or respiratory infections, inadequate oral hygiene, some medications and certain medical disorders. When you come to our dental office, we can identify the cause and develop a treatment plan if it is caused by an oral condition.

What Causes Bad Breath?

Most people are aware the foods they eat affect the smell of their breath. Garlic and onions, for instance, can create embarrassing odors. This is because the food is absorbed into the blood and transferred to the lungs, leaving your body when you breathe. Using mouthwash, brushing and flossing will only stop the odor temporarily. Dieters may also have bad breath due to infrequent eating habits.

Not brushing and flossing daily will leave behind food particles in the mouth. These particles collect bacteria, which will cause bad breath. Food can also collect between the teeth, on the tongue and around the gums, where it will rot and cause a bad odor. Dentures that aren’t cleaned properly can also be a problem.

Bad breath or a bad taste in the mouth is actually a common warning sign of the presence of periodontal disease. This disease is caused by the presence of plaque, the sticky, colorless film that sits on your teeth when you don’t brush properly. The bacteria in this film create toxins that can irritate the gums. In the advanced stages of periodontal disease, the jaw bone, gums and support structure for your teeth can deteriorate. Seeing us regularly will help detect the presence of periodontal disease early so it can be treated.

Dry mouth, otherwise known as xerostomia, occurs when saliva decreases. Your saliva works to cleanse your mouth and remove particles that could cause odors. However, certain medications, salivary gland issues and breathing through the mouth often can all cause your mouth to dry. To battle this issue, we can prescribe artificial saliva or suggest a sugarless candy to use. Increasing fluid intake may also help.

The use of tobacco may be responsible for bad breath, tooth stains, an inability to taste food and irritated gums. Many tobacco users suffer from periodontal disease and are at an increased risk of oral cancer. For this reason, it’s important to talk to your doctor about your use of tobacco to help you kick the habit.

In some cases, bad breath may signal a medical problem, such as a respiratory tract infection, postnasal drip, chronic sinusitis, diabetes, chronic bronchitis, liver or kidney ailments or a gastrointestinal disturbance. If we determine your mouth is healthy, we may suggest seeing your family doctor or other medical specialists to find the underlying cause.

How to Treat Bad Breath and Care for Your Mouth

If you want to reduce bad breath, it’s important to heal your periodontal disease and maintain good oral health. Regular dental checkups and cleanings are a major factor. You may also benefit from keeping a food log and making a list of medications you take. It is also important to let your dentist know if you’ve had surgery or an illness recently.

At home, make sure you brush twice a day using fluoride toothpaste to remove plaque and any food debris. Make sure you brush your tongue. Floss or an interdental cleaner should be used once a day. For those who wear removable dentures, remove them at night and clean them before returning them to to your mouth.

Mouthwash typically isn’t good options for long-term relief of bad breath. If you find you need to freshen your breath often, seeing your dentist is critical. For help controlling excess plaque, we may recommend an antimicrobial mouthwash. A monthly fluoride rinse in addition to regular brushing and flossing will help keep your teeth healthy.