Experiencing bad breath once in a while is very common. But you might need to visit a dentist or make some lifestyle changes if it is becoming a daily issue. Here’s all you need to know about bad breath — including symptoms, causes, and treatment options.
The defining characteristic of bad breath, or halitosis, is an unpleasant smell of the mouth. Bad breath can be chronic or acute and may present different odors depending on your oral hygiene and diet. In some cases, bad breath could be an indicator of underlying medical conditions like gastric reflux, kidney diseases, or diabetes.
The most common causes of bad breath include:
- Food: Some foods like garlic, onions, fish, some cheeses, and exotic spices can leave a lingering smell in the mouth. Tiny food particles that remain stuck to the teeth can also promote bacterial growth and dental plaques, which are leading causes of bad breath.
- Smoking: All tobacco products – including cigarettes, cigars, snuff, and stainless tobacco – stain the teeth and leave chemicals in the mouth. Smoking can also worsen other conditions like gum disease and oral cancer.
- Poor dental hygiene: Failure to brush and floss regularly causes a buildup of food particles in the mouth. The result is a breeding ground for bacteria that can cause an unpleasant odor or taste in the mouth.
- Allergies: Seasonal allergies or infections in the mouth can also cause bad breath. They often lead to post-nasal drip and dry mouth, which are both responsible for boosting bacterial growth.
- Medications: Some medications like antihistamines contribute to bad breath by causing dry mouth. Medications can also elevate the production of certain chemicals in the body that lead to bad breath.
- Medical conditions: Pneumonia, bronchitis, tonsil stones, diabetes, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), lactose intolerance, and some liver or kidney diseases are all commonly associated with bad breath.
Treatment and Remedies
Bad breath is almost always curable and is generally resolved within three days of implementing treatments. The most effective strategies to treat bad breath are:
- Practice good oral hygiene: Brush at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, for a minimum of two minutes each time. If it is not possible for you to brush after every meal, rinse your mouth with water to get rid of the trapped food bits. Floss once a day and remember to clean your tongue, ideally with a tongue scraper. Use an antibacterial mouthwash and replace your toothbrush every two to three months.
- Quit smoking or using chewing tobacco: All tobacco products leave dangerous chemical residues in your mouth. Quitting cigarettes will not only give you better-smelling breath but also a healthier body overall.
- Drink plenty of water: Staying hydrated throughout the day will help you prevent dry mouth. If you don’t see any improvement, you might want to try over-the-counter moisturizing agents, such as dry mouth rinses or sprays.
- Keep your saliva flowing: Maintain a moist mouth by following a healthy diet that makes you chew. Foods like carrots, apples, and celery improve saliva production and help clear food particles and plaque from your mouth. You can also suck on sugar-free candies to stimulate the flow of saliva.
- Visit your dentist regularly: See your dentist at least twice a year. Regular check-ups and dental cleaning procedures are absolutely crucial for good oral hygiene. A professional oral exam will help you pinpoint the cause of your bad breath.
If you are having issues with persistent bad breath even after taking these steps, it is time to make an appointment with your dentist. Use denTEL to look for dental care professionals in your area who specialize in treating halitosis. Check out our comprehensive directory of dentists to find the one just right for you.