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Ever regretted eating that onion bagel for breakfast? Ever been offered a mint or two? Ever been nervous to speak in close proximity of someone?

Altogether– have you ever questioned whether or not you have bad breath?

We all have those days where our breath just doesn’t smell… great. For some people, those days are few and far between. For others, it’s a chronic issue.

Halitosis, according to MouthHealthy.org, is defined as “chronic bad breath … Unlike ‘morning breath’ or a strong smell that lingers after a tuna sandwich, halitosis remains for an extended amount of time and may be a sign of something more serious.” This condition can be quite annoying and even embarrassing for most people. Halitosis can create fear of speaking publicly or even just being around others in general. Sometimes, this condition can feel incurable, especially if you’re not totally aware of its causes and remedies.

Halitosis and bad breath in general can stem from a lack of dental hygiene, or perhaps even a deeper-stemmed health issue. Above all, you’ll always want to pay attention to what your body is telling you. Down below, we’ve outlined five causes for bad breath or halitosis, and five ways that it can be treated. Hopefully, this can help you narrow down your specific run-in with halitosis, and can offer some insight for when you speak to dental professional about your bad breath.

Causes

1. Poor Dental Hygiene

Bad breath is a part of human existence; it happens to everyone on occasion. However, having bad dental hygiene and not brushing your teeth, flossing, or getting routine teeth cleanings can increase your chances of having bad breath. A lack of hygiene leaves your mouth vulnerable to cavities and gingivitis, which can culminate to make your bad breath even worse. Cavities in your teeth and deep pockets from gum disease help bad-breath causing bacteria hide and linger in your mouth. It’s much harder to get out, and can lead to deeper, more painful dental issues down the line.

2. Dry Mouth

Saliva plays a huge role in your health. It rinses out your mouth when you’re done eating, helps break down food particles, and is a part of your immune system that fights off cavities and tooth or mouth infections. When you take saliva out of the equation, your mouth loses this natural layer of protection which can make you more vulnerable to halitosis. Dry mouth can sometimes be cause by certain medications, medical conditions, excessive substance abuse, excessive consumption of caffeine, tobacco use, and dehydration. Bad breath can be a symptom or dry mouth, but also dry mouth can be a symptom of having halitosis. Be sure to consult with a medical professional to narrow down the cause of your dry mouth, so that it does not develop into a chronic, non-treatable issue.

woman taking medication

3. Smoking

Smoking, whether it’s tobacco or any other substance of your choosing, is a very common cause for bad breath. The unclean particles bind themselves to your mouth to create an unpleasant smell. Doing this in general is dangerous for your dental health as well, and can kick off a domino effect that will make you experience all of the causes of bad breath. Not only can it yellow your teeth and ruin your smile, smoking can cause various types of cancer, dry mouth, and even more dental issues that will culminate to give you some stinky breath. It’s not just cigarettes, either. Smoking tobacco out of a pipe can bring about the same risks as smoking from a cigarette. Illegal substances can also be a cause for bad breath, as certain drugs deactivate the salivary glands in your mouth, causing cottonmouth.

4. Nose, Mouth and Throat Infections

Various infections surrounding and connected to your mouth can cause bad breath as well. Illnesses related to postnasal drip have been proven to cause bad breath. It stems from the excess and infected mucus lingering in your nasal cavities, throat, or mouth. You’ll want to make sure to consult with your doctor if you suspect you have a nose, mouth or throat infection, regardless of bad breath. Letting these infections accumulate can cause deeper issues as they build.

5. Various Other Chronic Conditions

Halitosis or bad breath is usually a sign of something unpleasant happening in your mouth, nose or throat. Sometimes, however, it can be a sign of a much deeper, chronic body condition that you may not be aware of. 50 million people deal with chronic bad breath per year. Particular studies have shown that 5-10% of halitosis cases are a sign of an issue outside of the mouth. While the chances for the average person of having a deeper issue are slim, the point remains. Your halitosis is a sign that your body is trying to tell you something. Whether it’s that you have dry mouth, you have poor dental hygiene, or that you have something much more serious going on, always listen to your body.

Treatments and Remedies

1. If You Don’t Already, Get Regular Dental Cleanings

As mentioned before, bad breath can come from a lack of dental hygiene. Not consulting a dentist regularly to make sure you’re in tip-top shape can be your halitosis downfall. You should check in for a dental cleaning twice a year, or once every six months for good measure. A trusted dentist will be able to clean your mouth out properly, and get to the places that you frequently miss, cleaning out any hot spots in your mouth for bad breath bacteria to build up. They will also be able to detect and fill cavities, which will help prevent bad breath.

dental cleaning

2. Avoid Foods That Cause Bad Breath

If you’re not specifically prone to halitosis, you’ll want to avoid typically pungent foods like garlic, onions, or potent fish like tuna and sardines. You’ll also want to avoid foods that assist the growing of bacteria in the crevices of your mouth. NYC-based Dentist Victoria Veytsman says that:

“Bacteria can come in both good and bad forms. Our mouths contain certain types of bacteria to help us break down the foods we eat. However, the foods we eat also affect the amount of bacteria in our mouths. When we eat foods that are highly acid forming, it causes our mouths to become more acidic and harmful bacteria to grow … Acidic-forming foods are usually foods that have been processed, such as dairy, certain meats, grains, all simple carbohydrates (starches), and sugar. Alcohol, coffee, soda, and energy drinks are all dehydrating and acid-forming. Citrus fruits and vinegar are acidic on the teeth but alkaline-forming to the body.”

3. Go Above and Beyond At Home When It Comes to Dental Hygiene

Although it’s proper protocol, most people typically don’t take out the time of day to floss; however, flossing twice a day might be key to avoiding bad breath, as it clears out leftover food and plaque. Some people also do not know to replace their toothbrush once every two or three months. This ensures that bacteria does not grow over an extended period of time. If you wear dentures, be sure to remove them every night and sanitize them to avoid food and bacterial buildup, as this can be the cause of smelly breath. Taking everything into account, you’ll want to make sure that you’re doing everything in your power to keep your mouth as fresh as possible. This includes doing all of the things that dentists recommend, even if they aren’t the most convenient.

4. Refresh Your Mouth With Some Natural Remedies

Swishing around some cool water can certainly be a temporary fix to bad breath, as it can refresh your mouth and give it the rinse that it needs. You can also chew on some cloves, fennel seeds, or aniseeds to benefit from their antiseptic properties. Chewing on some lemon or orange rinds can also help, as the provide citrusy flavor that can mask bad breath. Give parsley, basil, mint or cilantro a try, which all have odor-neutralizing properties.

There are also some foods that, because of their crunchy consistency and acidic properties, can help clean your mouth in the most natural way possible. Fruits and veggies like apples, carrots, celery and cranberries can help with bad breath, along with other foods like walnuts or nonfat, plain yogurt.

5. Invest In A Tongue Scraper

Scraping your tongue each morning can get rid of bacteria, fungi and dead skin cells that contribute to odor. That way, they’ll have nothing to build upon during the day. Being proactive about bacteria buildup is ultimately key to preventing bad breath. Also consider using an alcohol-free mouthwash that will clean out the bad bacteria, without drying out your mouth too much.

Bad breath is an affliction that many people face on a daily basis. Luckily, your dentist is always here to help. Scheduling dental appointments and cleanings, along with consulting with them about oral-related issues will leave you safe instead of sorry. Use our tips to prevent bad breath, and as mentioned before, always listen to your mouth when it’s speaking to you.