The most common causes of bad breath are obvious, like you know it’s time to brush when you’ve had some particularly garlicky food, a good curry or too much to drink the night before and you wake up breathing fire.
Many cases of bad breath are caused by poor tooth brushing, lack of flossing and not cleaning your tongue, which is where 60% of those nasty smelling mouth bacteria sit. Other common causes are untreated tooth decay, gum disease and mouth infections. Bad breath is the product of odour-causing bacteria building up in your mouth and between your teeth.
Bad breath or halitosis is a very common problem and there are many different causes.
Persistent bad breath is usually caused by the smelly gases released by the bacteria that coat your teeth and gums.
Bits of food that get caught between the teeth and on the tongue, as well as mucus, will decay and breakdown and can cause an unpleasant smell, producing gases called volatile sulphur compounds (VSCs).
In 10% of bad breath cases, the origin is not the mouth and can be due to a more serious underlying medical problem, however, this is rarely the case so correct and regular brushing and mouth cleaning is very important to keep your breath smelling fresh.
The plaque bacteria on your teeth and gums cause gum disease and dental decay which can contribute to making your breath smell rotten. One of the warning signs of gum disease is that you always have bad breath or a bad taste in your mouth. Your dentist or hygienist will be able to see and treat the problem during your regular check-ups. The earlier problems are identified, the more effective the treatment will be.
But there are some surprising non-dental causes of bad breath:
Reasons Why You Get Bad Breath
Medications and Dry Mouth
Many medications cause dry mouth as a side effect, without enough saliva food particles and bacteria stay on your teeth and the bad smell increases.
Sinus infections and post nasal drip cause bad breath thanks to mucous passing into the throat and mouth.
Breathing through the mouth cuts down on saliva, leading to a drier, smellier mouth
Bacteria that live in the gut of obese people give off a certain, distinctive gas, causing bad breath in the mouths of overweight individuals.
Underlying Medical Conditions
It might not be the typical “bad” breath you’re used to; rather a “potent” fishy smell could signal kidney problems, and whiffs of fruit could be a sign of uncontrolled diabetes.
Smoking dries out the mouth causing odour-causing bacteria to run riot. Nicotine reduces the blood supply to the gums and allows bacteria to breed faster increasing a smoker's risk of gum disease and more bad breath.
Alcohol consumption dehydrates you and dries out your mouth. Alcohol causes a stale odour from your skin and your mouth.
Lumps of food, mucus and bacteria that are calcified and appear as white spots on your tonsils, are called tonsil stones, which produce bad breath.
Acid refluxing from the stomach to the oesophagus might produce a nasty smell and cause bad breath.
How To Tell If You Have Bad Breath
Often your friends, family or loved one will be too polite to tell you to have bad breath, even your dentist may be too embarrassed to mention that you have it, after all, it is a sensitive topic. But as you can see bad breath may be a sign of serious underlying health issues that shouldn’t be ignored.
How do you know if you have bad breath?
Well apart from the dog not wanting to give you a kiss or your friends constantly offering you a mint how do you know as its impossible to smell your own breath.
Try this test to check if your breath smells – Lick your wrist, let it dry for 10 seconds and then smell it. If you don’t come up smelling of roses then your breath needs a freshen up.
How to Avoid Bad Breath
Here are the best ways to keep your breath smelling fresh.
Brush and floss correctly. -It's basic but you need to brush and floss twice a day as you don’t want bacteria, or worse, plaque and tartar in your mouth. You probably don’t want to hear it but flossing is crucial to breaking up the plaque and food debris, which can cause bad breath.
Use a tongue scraper/cleaner. – You should clean your tongue every day. Use a proper tongue cleaner and not the back of the toothbrush and make sure you are cleaning all the way back to your gag reflex, the part that makes you feel like you might choke as this is where a lot of bugs and mucous sits that are responsible for bad breath.
See your dentist at least twice a year. – Keep up with dental cleanings and be sure to get regular X-rays of your teeth. Bad breath can be caused by cavities or infections in the mouth. There’s no way to know what’s going on in there unless a professional examine your teeth and gums regularly.
Drink more water. – Water moistens the mouth and helps things run smoothly.
Use a saltwater gargle or antibacterial mouthwash to keep your throat clean – Gargling with saltwater keeps the tonsil area clean, by dislodging anything that’s become stuck in the back of the throat.
Chew sugar-free gum. – Chewing gum comes in fresh minty flavours and increases saliva production.
Limit stinky foods and alcohol – Onions, garlic, spicy dishes, and coffee all have smells that linger in our mouths up to 72 hours after we ingest them. So its good to brush and floss after each meal and use an alcohol-free mouthwash to help keep your breath fresh by masking these food odours.
Don’t smoke – the smell of smoking gets stuck in the mouth, throat, and lungs. Smoking causes increased plaque/bacteria build-up and gum disease, which adds to the unpleasant smell.
Holistic Health Tip
Keeping your body fit and well, getting plenty of sleep, and eating foods like fruit and vegetables and avoiding sugar reduces inflammation in the body which means your mouth will naturally be healthier and fresher.
Dr Rachel Hall holistic dentist Kenmore is the founder and principal dentist at Evolve Dental Healing. CLICK HERE to get your FREE GUIDE to a fresher, healthier mouth and body.