What Causes Bad Breath & What Can You Do to Prevent it?

June 27, 2017

No one wants bad breath, but many of us have it. 80 million Americans have chronic halitosis, the medical term for mouth odor.

Before you come up with a remedy for your bad breath, you first need to figure out if you have it. Checking your breath for freshness isn’t as simple as you would think. Since we are constantly around our own breath, we can easily become numb to the way it smells.

How to Check Your Breath for Freshness

The good news is that there is an easy way to check your breath. Follow these steps:

  1. Lick the back of a spoon.
  2. Allow saliva to dry.
  3. Smell the spoon—that’s the smell of your breath.

If you aren’t happy with the results of your spoon test, don’t feel too bad about it. We all get bad breath from time to time. Keep reading this post, and we will help you get to the bottom of what is causing that not-so-fresh odor.

What Causes Bad Breath?

Now that you know what your breath smells like, figuring out the cause should be your next move. The following are some common causes:

  1. Poor Oral Hygiene: Bacteria release waste that gives off a foul-smelling odor. If you don’t effectively remove bits of food that are trapped between your teeth and on your teeth surfaces, you are feeding the bacteria in your mouth. This is why it’s important to brush your teeth twice a day and floss every day. Brushing your tongue is also a crucial step for removing accumulated plaque.
  2. Missed Dental Check-Ups: Even the world’s best brushers and flossers miss some spots. As plaque sits on your teeth, it hardens into a substance called tartar that can only be removed by a dental professional. Excessive tartar can lead to many oral health issues, including bad breath. This is one of the many reasons why it’s important to get a professional tooth cleaning every six months.
  3. Dry Mouth: Dry mouth is caused by a lack of saliva, which serves many purposes for your oral health. One of saliva’s functions is to rinse dead skin cells and bacteria off your mouth. Dry mouth can be caused by dehydration, so be sure to drink plenty of water. There is a long list of medicines that can cause dry mouth, so check with your doctor about the best ways to combat side effects.
  4. Poorly Fitting Dentures and Other Appliances: Our mouths are constantly changing, so you need to get a new set of dentures every so often. Gaps in your dentures can create a perfect environment of odor-causing bacteria to thrive.
  5. Smoking: Smoking causes a myriad of health issues, and bad breath. Not only is cigarette smoke filled with more than 60 bad smelling chemicals, or aromatic hydrocarbons, but lingering smoke particles in your lungs can cause a stale smell on your breath.
  6. Gum Disease: The buildup of plaque associated with gum disease and the resulting toxins can cause a foul odor.
  7. Other Health Problems: Halitosis is a symptom for several medical issues such as sinus infections, diabetes, pneumonia, bronchitis, postnasal drip, acid reflux, and liver and kidney problems.

Why is Garlic Breath So Persistent?

Bad breath from eating pungent-smelling food like garlic or onions is a whole different animal. Your stomach digests odor-releasing compounds and releases the gas through your mouth, so a thorough brushing can do little more than mask the odors on your breath. Unfortunately, that garlic breath will stick with you until the garlic is fully digested.

Contact Your Dentist if Your Bad Breath Persists

If you’ve exhausted all the possible causes and you still have chronic bad breath, contact your dentist. In some cases, persistent bad breath is a sign that you need professional dental attention. If you’re in the Denver area and need some advice, we can help!