Common Causes of Bad Breath & How to Prevent It

Whether it’s bad morning breath or from something we ate, we’ve all experienced a situation where our breath – or someone else’s – has made us recoil a bit. Bad breath has many causes and understanding them can help you address and prevent the issue.

The Causes of Bad Breath

Bad breath, also referred to as halitosis, can be caused by anything from eating habits to larger health conditions.

What You Eat

Some food odors seem to hang on your breath longer than others. That’s because foods like onion or garlic have heavy order-causing compounds, which not only stick on your tongue but get circulated into your lungs and affect our breath. Alcohol works in a similar way. While it’s being processed by your body it’s found in your bloodstream, including in your lungs, resulting in bad breath.

Poor Oral Hygiene

Bad breath is also caused by natural bacteria in your mouth, an issue that can be enhanced by poor oral hygiene. By not regularly brushing and flossing your teeth, you allow small bits of food to remain. These particles decay, causing a bad odor, and also grow bacteria. Bad oral health may also lead to periodontal disease, or gum disease, in which bacteria attacks your gums. The more unchecked bacteria in your mouth, the more likely you are to develop bad breath.

Dry Mouth

Bacteria particularly thrive and grow in the mouth when there’s not enough salvia to wash it away. Dry mouth is one of the biggest contributors to morning breath, when your mouth may be dry from breathing through your mouth while sleeping. This is another area where alcohol contributes to bad breath. Alcohol is dehydrating, which often leads to dry mouth.

Underlying Health Conditions

While bad breath is most often the result of eating habits, oral hygiene habits, or dry mouth, it can be caused by an illness in another part of your body. For instance, a respiratory track infection can cause bad breath stemming from the bacteria in your air passages. Bad breath can also accompany diseases such as diabetes and liver or kidney issues.

How to Prevent Bad Breath

If you have chronic bad breath, talk to your dentist. However, if you suffer from bad breath occasionally – like most people – there are a few simple things you can do to freshen your breath.

Practice Good Oral Hygiene

Brushing and flossing twice a day or after every meal will help prevent food particles from lodging between your teeth and decaying in place. It’s also an important step in avoiding gum diseases. Practicing good oral hygiene will help you manage the bacteria in your mouth and minimize bad breath.

Brush Your Tongue

Brushing your teeth is a good way to get rid of mouth bacteria, but much of the bacteria and food debris resides on your tongue – particularly the back part of the tongue. Every time you brush your teeth, also brush your tongue. This simple act can reduce bad breath by 70%.

Stay Hydrated

To help guard against dry mouth bad breath, take measures to stay hydrated. While the old adage of drinking eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day is currently under debate, it’s useful to have a water bottle with you throughout the day and to drink regularly to ensure you stay hydrated. If you’re out drinking, alternate alcoholic drinks and water to combat the dehydrating effects of libations.

Pay Attention to “Bad Breath” Foods

Because food-based bad breath is caused by odor compounds that work their way into your blood stream and lungs, there’s little you can do to “fix” it once it happens. To prevent bad breath in key social situations, make a mental note of which foods give you bad breath and avoid them whenever you need your breath smelling fresh.

Understand What Won’t Fix It

While gum or mouthwash may feel like it fixes the problem, it’s often only a temporary solution. Chewing gum or rinsing with mouthwash can help dislodge stuck food and wash away some bacteria if you’re unable to brush your teeth, but ultimately it’s often just a scented cover up that doesn’t address the underlying issue. If your bad breath is the result of something you ate that is being processed through your blood stream, there is no way to get rid of the bad breath except to wait.

Topics: bad breath | hygiene | health tips

Posted In: Oral & Dental Health Tips