What Causes Bad Breath?

Advice from a dentist on bad breath

Bad breath is cited as one of the most common concerns people have when preparing for dates or social engagements. The usual culprits that contribute to bad breath include tobacco, coffee, and garlic. Below are some of the other common day to day contributors to bad breath, as well a few less common causes, and solutions to keep your breath fresh.

Common Causes of Bad Breath

Generally, bad breath that develops throughout the day is caused by oral bacteria that feed off of sugars and starches in your mouth. The smell of bad breath is caused by sulphuric gases that are released by the bacteria. Sugary beverages such as soda, juice, and sports drinks, especially beverages preserved with citric acid are among the leading contributors to bad breath bacteria. When you run your tongue along the surface of your teeth after eating high-fructose foods and you feel a film covering the teeth, this is bacteria. Certain savory foods such as raw onion and garlic contain sulfur compounds and are also known to contribute to bad breath.

In addition to the foods you eat, having a dry mouth can often be the cause of persistent bad breath. Since saliva works to naturally rinse and dilute bacteria in the mouth, the absence of saliva can lead to issues with bad breath. If bacteria are left in the mouth for too long, more serious issues can develop such as gum disease and cavities, which make bad breath even worse. Occasionally, food particles and bacteria can get trapped in the crevices of the tonsils and lead to bad breath even after brushing the teeth. These particles, known as tonsil stones, can usually be gently scraped away or rinsed away by gargling with salt water.

Remedies for Bad Breath

The first step in preventing bad breath should be to brush and floss regularly. Consult your family dentist for recommendations on fluoride toothpastes and the best brushing and flossing routine to suit your needs. To avoid excess sugar, eat a well-balanced diet and drink a lot of water. Chewing fibrous fruits and vegetables such as carrots and apples helps to stimulate saliva glands, and can help to sweep away bacteria. Drinking plain water between meals helps to rinse the mouth without depositing sugar. If you experience chronic dry mouth, or dry mouth that is caused by medications, consult your family dentist who may recommend a saliva substitute or stimulant.

Since the mouth tends to be dry after you sleep, drink water first thing in the morning and don’t wait too long to brush your teeth. When choosing a mouth rinse, make sure it is alcohol free. Alcohol helps kill bacteria but it also dries the mouth and contributes to the root cause of bad breath. Since bacteria collect not only on the teeth but also on the back of the tongue, you may consider adding a tongue scraper to your dental kit to ensure you start the day with the freshest breath possible.

Less Common Causes of Bad Breath

Bad breath can most often be managed through consultation with your dentist and by maintaining a good oral health routine. Occasionally, bad breath can be a symptom of a medical condition outside of the mouth. The less common causes of bad breath include digestive issues, infection in the nose, sinus, throat, or lungs, bronchitis, diabetes, or problems with the liver or kidneys. For simple digestive issues, probiotics such as those found naturally in yogurt can help break down foods in the stomach to assist with digestion. If you have already consulted your family dentist and no issues are found within the mouth, be sure to consult your doctor to eliminate other potential causes of bad breath.

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