The medical term for bad breath is halitosis.  Sometimes it is related to dental problems, and sometimes it can be a sign of a more serious health conditions.  Today we’ll look at some of the common causes of bad breath, how to get rid of it, and how to prevent it from returning.

Gum Disease

Chronic or persistent bad breath is one of the warning signs of periodontal (gum) disease.  It is often accompanied by a bad or metallic taste.  Gum disease is caused by an excess buildup of plaque on the teeth, which increases the levels of bacteria in the mouth.  It is diagnosed when an infection becomes present in the tissues and bones around the teeth.  Only your dentist can diagnose and treat gum disease.

Dry Mouth

Dry mouth is a very common cause of bad breath.  It can occur as a side effect of certain medications such as those used to treat depression, anxiety, allergies, pain, asthma, and a number of other conditions.  It can also occur due to underlying disease, chemotherapy, nerve damage, dehydration, and tobacco products.

Dry mouth decreases the amount of saliva available to wash away acids and dead skin cells in the mouth.  When this occurs, the cells can decompose and cause bad breath.

Infections and Chronic Conditions

Chronic sinus infections, bronchitis, pneumonia, chronic acid reflux, and liver or kidney problems can all be a source of bad breath.  When no dental problems are present, patients should see their doctor to rule out an underlying health condition and find an appropriate medical treatment.

Certain Foods

Foods like onions, garlic, certain spices, and some vegetables enter your bloodstream after digestion and are carried to your lungs.  You then exhale the odor when you breathe, creating bad breath.

Bad breath that is caused by foods is a temporary occurrence that resolves once the offending food is fully absorbed and processed by the body.  But because it originates in the lungs, masking it can be difficult.

Treating and Preventing Bad Breath

Getting rid of bad breath can be as simple as treating gum inflammation, addressing an underlying health condition, changing medications, or avoiding certain foods.

Here are some guidelines to follow:

  • Brush and floss daily to remove odor-causing food particles and excess plaque
  • Scrape your tongue regularly with a tongue scraper to remove buildup
  • Use a mouthwash to temporarily mask foul food odors
  • Stop smoking or using tobacco products of any kind
  • Treat odors from gum disease or tooth decay by visiting your dentist
  • See your doctor to manage underlying health causes for bad breath and dry mouth
  • Use a toothpaste, mouthwash, or gel specially formulated for dry mouth to increase saliva
  • Talk to your doctor about how to manage medication side effects
  • Drink lots of water during the day to reduce plaque and bacteria
  • Chew sugarless gum to increase saliva (avoid gums with sugar as they promote decay)
  • Visit your dentist twice a year for a thorough cleaning and examination

Written by: Dr. Yahya Mansour