What Causes Bad Breath?: The 10 Most Common Culprits

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There is nothing worse than talking to someone and wondering if your breath is fresh. Bad breath, also called halitosis, can affect your self-confidence and self-image in your personal and professional life. Halitosis is a common condition, affecting 1 out of 4 people worldwide. In fact, one research study, using the information from studies in 13 medical journal articles, reports that bad breath affects about 31.8% of the population.

The condition is usually worse in the morning, as well as after smoking, drinking coffee, or eating certain foods, like garlic. Mouthwash, mints, or gum are short-term solutions, so it’s necessary to understand what causes bad breath in order to eliminate it.

The causes are many. It might be a problem in your mouth or digestive tract or from metabolic processes in your body. Or it may simply be inattention to your oral hygiene routine.

Once the reasons are identified, you can work to correct the problem. Let’s look at the top 10 causes of bad breath.

The 10 Most Common Causes of Bad Breath

Here are the 10 most common causes of halitosis:

#1 – Poor Oral Hygiene

Brushing your teeth and tongue regularly is essential to keep your mouth healthy and odor-free. Without it, bacteria and plaque coats your teeth and leads to gum disease and tooth decay, both major causes of bad breath. A regular schedule of dental visits for teeth cleanings and exams is also necessary to prevent bad breath.

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#2 – Neglecting to Floss

Brushing your teeth is necessary but not enough just on its own. You should also floss your teeth daily to remove hard-to-reach pieces of food from between your teeth. If left there, the food will rot, leaving destructive and smelly bacteria on the teeth.

#3 – Old Dental Work

Old fillings and crowns wear out over time which leaves spaces for bacteria to attack the teeth. Restorations that were done with low-quality materials can oxidize and break down over time. Infection and bad breath are the results of any of these situations. Work with your dentist to replace these older fillings and crowns as soon as possible to prevent infection and the bad breath that inevitably follows.

#4 – Low Saliva Flow/Dry Mouth

The function of saliva in the mouth is to keep bacteria levels low. Low saliva equals higher levels of bacteria, creating an environment for bad breath to become a problem. Xerostomia, or dry mouth, can be treated with xylitol. And for chronic dry mouth, your dentist or health care provider may prescribe an oral medication that can help stimulate the flow of your saliva.

Some medications and over-the-counter products, as well as chemo or radiation treatments, can affect saliva levels. Drink lots of water, use products designed to stimulate saliva flow, brush more often, and talk to your dentist or doctor in extreme cases.

#5 – An Acidic Diet

Acid reflux due to acidic foods and drinks is one cause of bad breath. Symptoms are heartburn, nausea, a bitter taste in the mouth, burping, and heartburn. It may take a while to determine which foods in your diet are causing the reflux. But discuss it with your doctor to get control of the condition and eliminate the chance of bad breath.

#6 – High Sugar Diet

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Bacteria feeds off sugary foods, like candy, pastries, and soda. By consuming an excess of sugar, you are providing bacteria a place to grow and thrive. Bad breath often follows. Cut down on sweets and soda or switch to sugar-free options. Swish your mouth with water or brush your teeth after eating sugar to get rid of most of it right away.

#7 – The Keto Diet

The ketogenic diet (also referred to as the keto diet) is a low-carb, high-fat diet that offers many health benefits. It lowers blood sugar and insulin levels but it also results in increased levels of acetones in the body as it breaks down fat. Too much acetone in the body can become a problem, with one side effect being bad breath. Increased water intake and sugar-free products can help with this.

#8: Pungent Foods

Garlic, onions, spices, and coffee are pungent foods that can cause bad breath. If you don’t brush your teeth after eating these foods, the odor can affect your breath for hours. Carry a toothbrush and a small bottle of fluoride mouthwash with you to rid your mouth of these odors as you carry on with your day.

#9: Underlying Medical Issues

As we’ve mentioned before, your overall health is largely connected to your oral health. Nasal and sinus infections, gastric reflux, tonsillitis, and post-nasal drip can all lead to bad breath. The condition can also be the result of surgical wounds after oral surgery, such as tooth removal. Sores in the mouth may also cause bad breath.

Small stones that form on the tonsils and are covered with bacteria can produce mouth odor as well. Infections or chronic inflammation in the nose, sinuses, or throat, can also be the culprits. 

See your doctor for resolutions to these problems rather than simply ignoring them. Your health and your breath will benefit!

#10: Tobacco Products

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Anyone who knows a smoker knows this smell. Smoking causes an unpleasant odor, and smokers and oral tobacco users are more likely to have gum disease, another source of bad breath. The sooner you can quit smoking, the sooner you’ll start improving your teeth and gum health and reduce bad breath.

Eliminating Bad Breath Is Possible!

If you have bad breath, review these 10 causes to pinpoint the possible reasons. Check your oral hygiene habits and make any necessary lifestyle changes.

Your choice of dentist is critical in eliminating bad breath. Our dental health team at TLC Dental Center in Cherry Hill can help. This begins with a thorough examination to create a treatment plan that attacks the problem now and prevents it from returning in the future. We will work with you to keep your mouth healthy, so halitosis is no longer a problem you have to battle.

If we suspect that a more serious medical condition is the cause of your bad breath, we will refer you to your physician to address the problem.

Contact us today to schedule your appointment. There is no need to fear bad breath any longer!