Causes and Treatments of Halitosis (Bad Breath)

Bad breath is more than a sign of a dental health problem. Halitosis can affect your confidence, your ability to socialize, and your quality of life. One in four people worldwide experiences bad breath. There are many sources of halitosis ranging from the lingering odors of the last meal you ate to health issues that may have a much more complicated explanation. Learning why unpleasant breath occurs can help you combat halitosis and enjoy better oral health.

Why Does My Breath Smell Bad?

The odors commonly associated with bad breath include hydrogen sulfide, a gas produced by the bacteria that live in plaque, which smells like rotten eggs. Methyl mercaptan is caused by bacteria found near the gag reflex and in the gums and is often described as smelling like feces. Dimethyl sulfide is a bacteria found in the throat that is associated with post-nasal drip and sinus issues and smells much like rotten cabbage or gasoline.

Temporary bad breath can also come from foods. Meats and cheeses, spices and garlic or onions, alcohol, and sugary drinks can all contribute to bad breath. These odors can be amplified if you have a dry mouth. “Morning breath” similarly stems from a lack of saliva – when you sleep, your mouth creates less saliva, and the odors that occur in your mouth are accentuated by the drier oral environment.

What Causes “Bad Breath”?

There are many causes, but the most common contributors include:

Low Saliva Production: Some people suffer from a condition called “Dry Mouth”, which can stem from genetics, the use of certain medications, or the overconsumption of stimulants. Smoking can also cause dry mouth.

Poor Dental Hygiene: Bacteria can cause smelly breath, and the failure to remove bacteria can lead to gum disease and tooth decay, both of which can create foul odors.

Dehydration: Poor hydration can contribute to dry mouth and other sources of bad breath.

Poor Diet: Poor gastrointestinal function and poor diet often lead to halitosis.

Unbalanced Oral Biome: The pH levels in your mouth can be unbalanced, along with the “good” bacteria that make up your mouth’s biome.

How Do I Treat Bad Breath?

Some of the solutions may seem pretty obvious: drink lots of water, improve your diet, and be sure to brush your teeth. Flossing and brushing regularly are two of the most effective tools you can use to fight halitosis. Biannual visits to your dentist will help to keep your mouth clean and ensure that any problems that may arise are treated before they become major disasters. Using a tongue scraper may help as well. Your tongue harbors bacteria that can cause bad breath, and removing that bacteria with a tongue scraper can help control the number of bacteria in your mouth.

Although mouthwash may seem like an effective way to combat unpleasant breath, it may actually contribute to the problem. The alcohol in mouthwash can dry your tissues and contribute to dry mouth. It also kills ALL the bacteria in your mouth, which can cause an unhealthy balance by killing all the “good” bacteria that are part of your mouth biome. Before using mouthwash to treat chronic bad breath, talk to your dentist. Your dentist may suggest a special mouth rinse or chewable probiotics to help achieve the proper balance and prevent the issue. You can learn more about how mouthwash can help and hurt your oral health in our recent blog post.

If your halitosis persists in spite of these lifestyle changes, you should contact your doctor and discuss possible systemic issues such as gastrointestinal problems or upper respiratory complaints. Likewise, if you are on medications that can cause dry mouth and bad breath, talk to your dentist about how you can offset these side effects and maintain your best possible oral health.

How We Can Help

Overcoming your bad breath can liberate you to enjoy more situations without anxiety. If you suffer from halitosis, Hollymead Dental Arts can help! Call us at 434-973-4649 and let us help you banish that bad breath!