Bad Breath Causes, Treatments, and Prevention
Bad breath is a common problem that can affect anyone at any age.
About one in four people are thought to have bad breath (halitosis) on a regular basis.
What causes bad breath?
Bad breath can be the result of numerous things, but it’s usually caused by poor oral hygiene. If bacteria builds up in your mouth, it can cause your breath to smell.
Bacteria break down pieces of food in the mouth, releasing unpleasant-smelling gas. Any food trapped in your teeth will be broken down by bacteria, causing bad breath.
Persistent bad breath can sometimes be a sign of gum disease.
Eating strongly flavoured foods, such as onions and garlic, can also cause your breath to smell, as can smoking and drinking a lot of alcohol.
Occasionally, bad breath can occur following an infection or illness, or as a result of taking certain types of medication.
Treating and preventing bad breath
Improving oral hygiene is usually enough to cure bad breath and prevent it happening again.
Your dentist can advise you about ways to improve your oral health and will recommend:
Regularly brushing your teeth and gums
Flossing between your teeth
Keeping your tongue clean
When to see your doctor
If you still have bad breath after making changes to your dental hygiene, see your doctor. There may be a medical cause that needs investigating.
It’s not always easy to tell if you have bad breath. Other people may notice it first, but could feel uncomfortable telling you.
A simple test to find out whether you have bad breath is to lick the inside of your wrist with the back of your tongue and wait for a few seconds until the saliva dries. If your wrist smells unpleasant, it’s likely your breath does too.
Bad breath (halitosis) has a number of possible causes.
Poor oral hygiene
The most common cause of bad breath is poor oral hygiene.
Bacteria that build up on a person’s teeth, tongue and gums can cause plaque (the soft, white deposit that forms on the teeth’s surface), gum disease and tooth decay.
The bacteria combine with saliva to break down food particles and proteins – this releases an unpleasant-smelling gas.
If you don’t brush and floss your teeth regularly, any food trapped between your teeth will be broken down by the bacteria, causing bad breath.
Bacteria can also live in the rough surface of your tongue. Therefore, as well as brushing your teeth, cleaning your tongue can also help control bad breath.
Having regular dental check-ups will ensure that any oral hygiene problems are picked up and treated early. Your dentist can advise on how often you need a check-up.
Food and drink
Eating strongly flavoured foods – such as garlic, onions and spices – is likely to make your breath smell. Strong-smelling drinks – such as coffee and alcohol – can also cause bad breath.
Bad breath caused by food and drink is usually temporary, and can be avoided by not eating or drinking these types of food and drink too often. Good dental hygiene will also help.
Smoking is another cause of bad breath. As well as making your breath smell, smoking can also stain your teeth, irritate your gums and lessen your sense of taste.
Smoking also increases your risk of developing gum disease, which is another cause of bad breath. Stopping smoking will lower your risk of gum disease and thus help prevent bad breath.
Crash dieting, fasting and low-carbohydrate diets can also cause bad breath. These cause the body to break down fat, which produces chemicals called ketones that can be smelt.
Some types of medication can also cause bad breath. Medications associated with bad breath include:
Nitrates – which are sometimes used to treat angina (chest pain caused by a restriction in the blood supply to the heart)
Some chemotherapy medication
If the medication you’re taking is causing bad breath, your doctor may be able to recommend an alternative. Sourse