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10 Causes of Bad Breath

Bad breath can happen to anyone. The American Dental Association reports that about half of adults in the US have or will have to deal with bad breath at some point in their lifetimes.

The reasons for bad breath range from the not-so-bad (you had a slice of garlic pizza) to the more urgent (you’ve got an infection). Understanding some of the most common causes of bad breath can help you work with your dentist and hygienist to put together a plan to keep unpleasant mouth odors away.


1. Garlic, Onions, and Other Foods

If you love garlic, onions, or other pungent foods, you know there’s a tradeoff. You can enjoy your garlicky Alfredo sauce, your French onion soup or a spicy curry now, and expect to experience malodorous breath in the future.

While eating any type of food can lead to bad breath, as the bits of food end up becoming a meal for the bacteria that call your mouth home, garlic tends to be the worst offender. In part, that’s because garlic contains sulfur compounds that get absorbed into the bloodstream and that take some time to break down.

Brushing your teeth and flossing after a meal will help to improve the scent of your breath. In the case of garlic, you can try to neutralize some of the sulfur and the odor by eating a raw apple, as Popular Science reported.


2. Cigarettes and Tobacco Products

Cigarette smoke has a very strong odor, so it should be little surprise that it’s a common cause of bad breath. Cigarettes and other tobacco products can also increase your risk of gum and bone disease, which can also contribute to bad breath.

While using mints or sugar-free gum can help to mask the odor, the most effective way to improve bad breath caused by tobacco products is to quit smoking or using other tobacco products. If you’re ready to quit, your dentist and hygienist can connect you to quitting resources and provide support.


3. Alcohol

Alcohol is pretty drying, which is why people often feel as if they need to drink a gallon (or two) of water after a night out. The drying effects of alcohol can also contribute to bad breath.

Another way that alcohol can lead to bad breath is by changing the makeup of bacteria in your mouth. A study published in Microbiome found that people who drank the most were more likely to have bacteria in their mouths that contributed to bad breath.

If you’re concerned about your alcohol consumption, your dental professional can help you get assistance with cutting back or quitting for good.


4. A Cold

When you have a common cold or other respiratory infection, the mucous your body produces can be seen as a tasty meal for odor-causing bacteria in the mouth, which can lead to bad breath.

Although (as you probably know) there’s no cure for the common cold, there are ways to help yourself feel better when you have one. Taking a decongestant can help your nasal passages drain and drinking plenty of water and other fluids can help to flush out excess mucous.


5. Gum and Bone Disease or Other Oral Infection

Infections in the mouth, including gum and bone disease, can contribute to bad breath. The bacteria that causes gum and bone disease or infections, like a dental abscess, often has a very strong odor.

If you think there’s an issue in your mouth that’s behind your bad breath, seeing a dental professional for treatment can help you get to the bottom of the problem and improve your oral health and the scent of your breath at the same time.


6. Fad Diets

If you’re trying out a fad diet, such as the ketogenic diet or another low-carb diet, then you might want to know that some diets can contribute to bad breath.

Often the goal of low carb diets is to move the body into ketosis, which helps it burn fat. During ketosis, the body produces ketones, which have a notable odor. One way to minimize the smell of ketones is to drink more water. If the smell is bad enough, you might consider giving up the diet. It’s up to you and your doctor to weigh the pros and cons of losing weight versus having bad breath.


7.  Heartburn and GERD

When you experience heartburn or acid reflux, acid and some undigested food from the stomach can flow back up the esophagus, sometimes into the mouth. The combination of partially or undigested food and acid washing back into the mouth can lead to bad breath.

Bad breath is just one reason why you’d want to treat heartburn or GERD. Acid reflux can be pretty uncomfortable and can cause long-lasting damage to the esophagus if untreated. Treatment options include avoiding certain foods, taking antacid, or, in the most severe cases, surgery.


8. Certain Medications

Medications can lead to bad breath for two reasons. In some cases, the way your body breaks down the medicine leads to the production of odorous chemicals. In other cases, medications contribute to dry mouth, which can make bad breath more likely.

If a medicine you’re taking is contributing to bad breath, it’s a good idea to talk to the medical provider who prescribed it. It could be that there is another medicine available that will help you out, without causing bad breath. Your medical provider can also recommend ways, like over the counter mouth rinses, to cope with the breath problem if you can’t change medications.


9. Dry Mouth

Saliva helps to control the levels of bacteria in your mouth. When your body doesn’t produce enough saliva, odor-causing bacteria can thrive.

Treating dry mouth involves figuring out what’s causing it. Medicines, some conditions, or your sleeping habits might play a part when it comes to dry mouth. Drinking more water, using a moisturizing mouth rinse, or treating a particular condition might all help relieve the dryness.


10. Poor Oral Hygiene

What happens when you don’t brush and floss regularly? Lots of things, such as periodontal or gum and bone disease, tooth decay, toothaches and bad breath.

Fortunately, starting or resuming an oral care routine at home can quickly bring an end to your bad breath. Your hygienist can show you how to brush and floss if you need a refresher on the best way to do it. Seeing a dental professional for regular cleanings and checkups can also help treat bad breath caused by poor oral hygiene.

Regular dental visits will also help you detect and treat other issues that can lead to bad breath, such as dry mouth, gum and bone disease, or other oral infections, quickly. Klement Family Dental in St. Petersburg, FL, offers convenient appointment times and payment options to help patients fit dental care and treatment into their busy schedules. If you’re concerned about bad breath or another dental issue, contact us today to for an appointment time that works with your schedule.