What can cause bad breath?

How can you prevent it Bad Breath

Bad breath, also known as Halitosis, can be embarrassing and may even cause social anxiety. The shelves in our supermarkets are overflowing with products that claim to fight bad breath, but the truth is that many of these products offer only temporary measures because they don’t address the root cause of the problem.

After you eat, any food particles that remain stuck in between and around your teeth provide bacteria in the mouth with a source of energy. These bacteria ultimately grow and multiply, releasing odours that cause bad breath. Bad breath can also be caused by eating certain foods, such as onions, garlic and spices – often the smell of these foods can linger on your breath long after you’ve eaten them.

CAUSE: Tobacco products
Smoking causes its own unpleasant mouth odour. In addition to the lingering smell of cigarettes on your breath, smoke particles also remain on your hair, clothing and fingers.

CAUSE: Poor dental hygiene
Maintaining good oral hygiene through brushing and flossing is essential in keeping your teeth and gums healthy. And healthy teeth and gums equal fresh breath.

When the brush technique isn’t adequate, a colourless, sticky film of bacteria known as plaque forms on your teeth. Layers of this bacteria can eventually irritate the gums and cause gum disease or tooth decay. If the plaque hardens over time, it forms tartar or calculus. Tartar absorbs the smells from food and drinks and then continually releases them in your mouth, causing your breath to start to smell.

Your tongue can also be a place that bacteria gets trapped and starts to produce odour. Under a microscope, the tongue looks like a hessian mat. Tongue brushing or scraping is very effective in removing bacteria and smell.

If you wear braces or dentures (false teeth), keeping them clean and well maintained will stop them harboring bacteria and fungus that causes bad breath.

CAUSE: Dry mouth
Your saliva helps to cleanse, remove particles that cause bad smell and neutralise acids in the mouth. A condition called dry mouth or Xerostomia can contribute to bad breath because production of saliva is decreased.

You can get dry mouth naturally during sleep, leading to “morning breath”, and it worsens if you sleep with your mouth open or snore.

Chronic dry mouth can also be caused by a problem with your salivary glands and some diseases. It can also be a side effect of medical treatment such as radiation therapy to the head or neck.

CAUSE: Medications
Some medications can indirectly produce bad breath by contributing to dry mouth. Others are broken down in the body to release chemicals that can be carried on your breath.

CAUSE: Tooth decay or gum disease 
Tooth decay and gum disease have very distinctive smells caused by a number of different harmful bacteria growing on and under the gum line or inside cavities. It is one of the most common causes of bad breath. If you have a sour, metallic or acidic taste in the mouth, it might be a good idea to have your dentist check your teeth and gums for problems. The good news? Once the cause of the problem has been treated, your breath naturally becomes fresher!

CAUSE: Other mouth, nose and throat conditions
Bad breath can occasionally stem from small stones that form in the tonsils and are covered with bacteria that produce odour. Infections or chronic inflammation in the nose, sinuses or throat, which can contribute to postnasal drip, can also cause bad breath. Impacted wisdom teeth that cause food to become stuck around them also cause bad breath.

Alternatively, diseases such as chronic reflux of stomach acids (gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD) can be associated with bad breath. Overgrowth of bacteria in the stomach or increased production of stomach acid can cause chronic reflux which may also lead to your breath smelling a little less fresh.

PREVENT: What should I do if I think I have bad breath?
The first step is to make an appointment with one of our dentists to discuss the problem. Once they have pin-pointed the cause, appropriate recommendations and treatment can be implemented.

PREVENT: What can I do to prevent bad breath?

  1. Brush your teeth and gums first thing after breakfast and last thing at night. If possible, brush after each meal with a fluoride toothpaste.
  2. Don’t forget to floss and brush your tongue as well, or use a tongue scraper.
  3. Change or cut down on foods and drinks containing sugar.
  4. If you smoke, consider cutting down or quitting smoking. The health benefits go far beyond fresher breath!
  5. Visit your dentist regularly to check for gum disease, tooth decay and to remove any stubborn plaque or tartar.

If you continue to suffer from or are worried about bad breath, book a dental check-up at your nearest Pacific Smiles Dental.

Book an appointment with your dentist

Book your dental appointment

Related articles