breath (halitosis) can be
caused by many things. It may be the result of odor-causing foods,
tooth decay, periodontal (gum) disease, continued mouth dryness,
use of tobacco products, sinus or respiratory infections, some
medical disorders, inadequate oral hygiene or some medications.
Your dentist can help identify the cause and, if it's due to an
oral condition, can develop a treatment plan to eliminate this
common source of embarrassment.
What you eat affects the air you exhale. Certain foods, such as
garlic and onions, contribute to objectionable breath odor. Once
the food is absorbed into the bloodstream, it is transferred to
the lungs, where it is expelled. Brushing, flossing and mouthwash
will only mask the odor temporarily. Odors continue until the body
eliminates the food. Dieters may develop unpleasant breath from
If you don't brush and floss daily, particles of food remain in
the mouth, collecting bacteria, which can cause bad breath. Food
that collects between the teeth, on the tongue and around the gums
can rot, leaving an unpleasant odor. Dentures that are not cleaned
properly can also harbor odor-causing bacteria and food particles.
One of the warning signs of periodontal
(gum) disease is persistent bad breath or a bad taste in the
mouth. Periodontal disease is caused by plaque, the sticky,
colorless film of bacteria that constantly forms on teeth. The
bacteria create toxins that irritate the gums. In the advanced
stage of the disease, the gums, bone and other structures that
support the teeth become damaged. With regular dental checkups,
your dentist can detect and treat periodontal disease early.
Bad breath is also caused by dry mouth (xerostomia), which
occurs when the flow of saliva decreases. Saliva is necessary to
cleanse the mouth and remove particles that may cause odor. Dry
mouth may be caused by various medications, salivary gland
problems or continuously breathing through the mouth. If you
suffer from dry mouth, your dentist may prescribe an artificial
saliva, or suggest using sugarless candy and increasing your
Tobacco products cause bad breath, stain teeth, reduce one's
ability to taste foods and irritate gum tissues. Tobacco users are
more likely to suffer from periodontal disease and are at greater
risk for developing oral cancer. If you use tobacco, ask your
dentist for tips on kicking the habit.
Bad breath may be the sign of a medical disorder, such as a
local infection in the respiratory tract (nose throat, windpipe,
lungs), chronic sinusitis, postnasal drip, chronic bronchitis,
diabetes, gastrointestinai disturbance, liver or kidney ailment.
If your dentist determines that your mouth is healthy, you may be
referred to your family doctor or a specialist to determine the
cause of bad breath.
disease and maintaining good oral health is essential to
reducing bad breath. Schedule regular dental visits for a
professional cleaning and checkup. If you think you have constant
bad breath, keep a log of the foods you eat and make a list of
medications you take. Some medications may play a role in creating
mouth odors. Let your dentist know if you've had any surgery or
illness since your last appointment.
Brush twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste to remove food
debris and plaque. Brush your tongue, too. Once a day, use floss
or an interdental cleaner to clean between teeth. If you wear
removable dentures, take them out at night. Clean them thoroughly
before replacing them the next morning.
Mouthwashes are generally cosmetic and do not have a
long-lasting effect on bad breath. If you must constantly use a
breath freshener to hide unpleasant mouth odor, see your dentist.
If you need extra help in controlling plaque, your dentist may
recommend using a special antimicrobial mouthrinse. A fluoride
mouthrinse, used along with brushing and flossing, can help
prevent tooth decay.