We’re all familiar with the funky smell that comes from our mouths when we’ve just woken up in the morning. But bad breath that lasts throughout the day despite brushing our teeth? That’s entirely another story! Imagine trying to speak at an interview, or ordering coffee at a cafe. You would not want anybody smelling that at all—the ramifications on your social life, career, and personal relationships can be endless.
The unpleasant breath odor known medically as halitosis, bad breath can be the result of oral disease, poor oral hygiene, or, in rare cases, an underlying illness. Diet and unhealthy lifestyle habits such as alcoholism and smoking can also contribute to having bad breath. Bad breath also has some psychological effects.
People who have been alerted to have bad breath may develop anxiety. There is an abundance of products to fight bad breath such as mouthwash, gum, mints, toothpaste, and more. Sadly, many of these products only solve the problem temporarily and do not address the root cause. Positive lifestyle and diet changes along with proper oral hygiene may also help the problem. But ultimately, one must seek the help of an oral healthcare professional if bad breath still persists.
Bad breath odors vary from person to person, depending on the underlying cause. Some people even think they have bad breath but do not. And while others have bad breath they are not aware of it all. There are two major concerns over bad breath which are genuine and non-genuine. Genuine cases are those of physiological in nature while non-genuine cases are merely referred to as “delusional” that could result from halitophobia or pseudo halitosis. Remaining cases are the result of disorders in the ear, nose, and throat region, lungs, and the gastroesophageal tract.
What causes bad breath?
What causes bad breath cannot simply be pinned down to one factor alone as there are several factors that contribute to bad breath as mentioned earlier. Here are the most common causes that could be behind your bad breath. The best opinion would always come from a dental professional, so make sure you get checked.
A study on halitosis conducted by Canadian oral health expert, Mel Rosenberg, “The Science of Bad Breath”, shows 90% of genuine cases of bad breath come from the mouth itself. This is known medically as intra-oral halitosis, oral malodor, or oral halitosis.
Dental plaque, which is of course found in your mouth, is a major cause of bad breath. Initially, it’s a sticky and colorless biofilm made up of bacteria found in the mouth that forms in the teeth and gumline. When it forms tartar, it becomes yellowish to brown. It is in the process of forming dental plaque that foul odors due to the breakdown of proteins found in leftover food particles in your mouth are released. Certain foods and beverages may even cause elevated levels of foul odor, particularly in the absence of proper oral hygiene.
The tongue also harbors bacteria that produce foul odors associated with bad breath. Large quantities of bacteria are often found in the posterior dorsum of the tongue. This area is often dry and poorly cleansed and relatively disturbed during normal tongue activity – a perfect breeding ground, one might say. These bacteria yield a foul “rotten egg” type of smell because of the volatile sulfur compounds (VSCs) present. However, these bacteria should not be confused with the white coating present on the tongue.
There are small grooves found between teeth and gums. These are called gingival crevices. These can be inflamed when a person is suffering from gingivitis. Gum disease can also be a cause of severe halitosis especially in its advanced stages where there is formation of pockets that contain pus. People with uncontrolled diabetes are prone to have gingival abscesses. The bacteria that cause gum diseases ultimately produce volatile sulfur compounds. One of these compounds, methanethiol, is one of the most prominent compounds that contribute to bad breath.
What role do lifestyle and diet play?
Certain foods, beverages, and tobacco products are also primary causes of bad breath. Food and beverages that have high sugar content are particularly notable as these sugars are the primary food of the bacteria present in the mouth and will cause an increased buildup of dental plaque. Additionally. tobacco products can stain your teeth and may lead to gum disease.
How can you avoid bad breath?
At home, simple remedies and lifestyle changes can help reduce bad breath. Proper oral hygiene is also key.
- Brushing your teeth at least twice a day.
- Flossing cleans your teeth thoroughly and removes food particles that are cannot be reached by your toothbrush.
- Clean your dentures if you have any. This also includes bridges or mouthguards. Make sure you wash these thoroughly after each use.
- Don’t forget to clean your tongue. You can use a tongue scraper or brushing your tongue will do.
- Stay hydrated to avoid dry mouth. Avoid alcohol and tobacco and keep the saliva flowing by chewing sugar-free gum.
- Change your diet. Avoid onions, garlic, and spicy food. Also, food rich in sugar such as candy bars also contributes to bad breath. Eat crisp fruits or vegetables such as apples and celery to stimulate your gums and increase saliva production.
- Use a mouth rinse regularly to get into hard-to-reach spaces in your mouth. Make sure you choose the right type because some contain ingredients like alcohol that can lead to dry mouth. One particular type of mouth rinse that is both effective and safe with pH content is nanosilver mouthwash like Elementa.
We hope that this article will enlighten you about the causes of bad breath and encourage you to avoid foods and lifestyle choices that may contribute to bad breath. Always remember to seek medical help when bad breath persists.