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What Causes Bad Breath?

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The more you know about the many causes of bad breath, the more proactive you can be about practicing good oral hygiene and addressing habits that can help reduce and keep halitosis at bay while promoting your overall good health.

You are what you eat

This may come as a surprise, but eating, itself, is actually one of the most common sources of bad breath. Thankfully, there are some preventive measures you can take to lessen the possibility of developing bad breath without having to give up food!

Certain things like onions, coffee, garlic, spices, and even some vegetables are more prone to causing bad breath than others. Through normal digestion, they enter your bloodstream and get carried to your lungs. This can, in turn, affect your breath with their naturally occurring and equally offensive odors. The good news is that there are also some foods, like broccoli and parsley that have the reverse effect and can actually neutralize bad breath!

Being aware of how these foods can produce these effects is the first step to prevention.

Chew on this

No matter how mindful you are of your diet, the process of chewing, alone, will stimulate the production of odor-carrying bacteria as food is being broken down. Noxious bacteria can also get trapped in the grooves of your tongue.

As with most things, the best defense is a good offense when it comes to oral hygiene. If you don't brush and floss daily, these particles will remain in your mouth and make matters worse. Beyond just making your breath smell bad, bacteria left to its own devices will turn into plaque, which can lead to gingivitis, or inflammation of the gums, and eventually periodontitis, or deep pockets between your teeth and gums that attract even more damaging plaque and bacteria. Similarly, dentures that aren't cleaned regularly or don't fit properly can also harbor these effects.

Besides the inherent unpleasant odor, tobacco use and smoking, by their very virtue, are more likely to lead to gum disease, which as we've just discussed, is associated with bad breath.

Even some medications and antibiotics can release chemicals that get carried on your breath as the body breaks them down. They can also indirectly contribute to dry mouth, a condition marked by reduced saliva production, also known as xerostomia. Because saliva helps to cleanse your mouth, it plays an essential role in removing bacteria-producing particles before they affect your breath. It is this reduced saliva output at night that leads to another malodorous condition, the dreaded "morning breath".

Chronic bad breath could signal something more serious

If you're still plagued by bad breath after ruling out the above, there could be something more serious at play like wounds or infections brought on by oral surgery, tooth extraction, or some other underlying illness or cause. Sometimes your nose, throat, or sinuses will become inflamed or swollen, exacerbating postnasal drip, or small stones can form on the tonsils, all of which can put off a foul smell. Distinctive breath odors can also be associated with glandular problems, metabolic disorders and other conditions like acid reflux, and some diseases like cancer as a result of the chemicals these conditions can produce. In young children, a foreign object, like a small toy or piece of food, lodged in the nose can result in bad breath.

When in doubt, it's always a good idea to take some time and discuss any questions directly with Dr. Caven. He can usually pinpoint the cause or at least rule out your concerns with a simple consultation and quick exam.

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