What Causes Halitosis? Understanding Your Bad Breath

Hemby Bridge family dentist

Bad breath, also known in the medical world as halitosis, is an extremely common occurrence that often leaves a person embarrassed and inconvenienced. To avoid the unfortunate situation of having bad breath, it is important to know the common causes of halitosis.

Below, we’re going to dive into the main causes behind bad breath, and equip you with strategies to leave it all behind.

Your Diet

The foods we eat are the largest culprits for the majority of our bad breath. Food starts to break down the second it enters our mouth which can put off unwanted odors almost immediately. Any food particles that remain between your teeth can potentially increase bacterial levels within your mouth and result in halitosis. 

Foods with strong flavors and odors will have the greatest impact on your bad breath. Foods such as:

  • Garlic
  • Onions
  • Cheese
  • Alcohol
  • Coffee
  • Sugary foods and drinks

These and other food items are leaders in causing bad breath. 

Halitosis caused by the food you eat can persist until the food is completely digested and passes through your body. Digested food enters the bloodstream and is carried to your lungs, which affects the air that you exhale.

Poor Hygiene

Your parents were right when they nagged you everyday to brush and floss your teeth. Food particles remain in your mouth – and in between your teeth – if you are not brushing and flossing daily. This build up of leftover food turns into bacteria called plaque, which will emit those dreadful odors all of us are trying to avoid. Plaque causes an array of oral health issues including cavities and gum irritation and inflammation (gingivitis) causing additional odors and bad breath.

Dry Mouth

Dry mouth is a real medical condition called xerostomia (zeer–o-STOE-me-uh) and is the reason behind the infamous “morning breath” phenomenon. Saliva is a natural cleansing substance that not only breaks food down but keeps our mouths clean and fresh. When our saliva production decreases or stops altogether, bad breath is almost certain to follow. Dry mouth leaves your breath defenseless to the bacteria caused by food particles.

Most dry mouth occurs at night when we are asleep, which is why many people wake up with halitosis (morning breath).

Smoking and Tobacco Products

Most tobacco products are taken orally and can cause some pretty nasty side effects. These can include: bad breath, dry mouth, gum disease and cancers. Smoking cigarettes, cigars or pipes and using different chewing tobaccos all leave their own distinct odors in the mouth that can linger long after the initial indulgence. Halitosis is also more likely in tobacco users because the diseases (such as gum disease) that are caused by tobacco products have bad breath as a common side effect.

Mouth, Nose and Throat Conditions

Bad breath can be caused by an array of infections and illnesses. Infections of the mouth like gum disease and tooth decay can produce a foul smell. Other common illnesses that affect our sinuses and throat can lead to postnasal drip, which can also result in halitosis. The bacteria in your mouth will feed on the mucus produced by your body which leaks from your sinuses when you have an infection or virus.

Another way common infections cause bad breath are by throat stones, which are tiny stones created by a bacterial build up that cling to the tonsils when one is sick. This is often associated with strep throat and other common illnesses.

Digestive Issues

Food is the leading factor in most cases of halitosis. As a result, any disruption in the way that food is digested can also cause bad breath. Acid reflux and other gastrointestinal issues often push recently eaten food back up the digestive tract into the esophagus and mouth resulting in bad breath. Other experiences of constipation and stomach upset can cause foul odors and bad breath.

Less Common Causes of Bad Breath

There are many more causes of bad breath that are less common – but are still relevant – to many people. Certain medications are associated with bad breath as they cause dry mouth and chemical reactions when ingested that result in foul odors that are exhaled. Diabetes, kidney problems and liver issues can cause bad breath.

Bad Breath: How To Fight Back

Luckily there is great news for those of you that are suffering with halitosis. There are many ways to mitigate, prevent, and remedy bad breath.

  1. Brush your teeth twice a day for at least two minutes and floss once daily.
  2. Rinse your mouth with a doctor recommended mouthwash twice daily.
  3. Drink lots of water. Water not only rinses your mouth, but also increases saliva production.
  4. Chew sugarless gum. The fresh scent can mask your bad breath and help saliva production.
  5. Eat apples, carrots, and celery which act as an oral deodorant. These and some other fruits and vegetables can help cleanse the mouth of food particles and plaque that cause halitosis.
  6. See your dentist regularly – at least every 6 months.

Roughly 30% of the world’s population suffers from bad breath. You don’t need to be one of them. Schedule an appointment at The Steele Creek Dentist in Charlotte today, where our in-house team of dental specialists can help address your halitosis and refresh your confident smile. Same-day appointments are available today when you call (704) 800-0252.