If you've ever popped a mint or chewed a piece of gum before a big date or important meeting, you're not alone. Bad breath, aka halitosis, is a pretty common occurrence. It can be embarrassing, but once you know what's behind your bad breath, you can take steps to prevent it. Learn more about the most common causes of bad breath and what you can do about it.
10 Causes of Bad Breath
Foods, medications and medical conditions can all contribute to bad breath. The following are some of the top causes of halitosis:
- Poor oral hygiene: If you don't brush and floss regularly, bacteria can build up in your mouth, teeth and gums. The bacteria often contribute to bad breath.
- Gum disease: Gum disease, whether in the early stages or advanced, can also cause bad breath, due to the bacteria that cause the disease.
- Something you ate: Some foods, such as onions and garlic, as well as spicy foods, affect your breath. As the food breaks down in your mouth, it can produce an unpleasant odor.
- Dry mouth: If you often have a dry mouth, either due to dehydration or a medical condition, you might notice an unpleasant odor from your breath. Saliva helps to rinse away bacteria, keeping bad breath in check.
- Smoking: Smoking or using tobacco products can also lead to bad breath. The smoke itself has an unpleasant odor and the act of smoking increases your risk of gum disease and other problems in the mouth.
- Medications: Some medications can lead to bad breath, either because they dry the mouth out or because the body produces bad-smelling chemicals when it breaks the medicine down.
- Heartburn: If you experience heartburn or GERD, acid reflux can also contribute to halitosis.
- Infections: Certain infections, such as tonsillitis and sinus infections, can also be a cause of bad breath, due to the bacteria that causes the infection.
- Misaligned teeth: If you have crooked teeth or issues with your bite, it can be tricky to clean between the teeth well, which can cause food to get stuck there. People with misaligned teeth often complain of bad breath.
- Drinking alcohol: Alcohol tends to dry out the mouth, which can contribute to bad breath.
How to Prevent Bad Breath
Once you know the cause of bad breath, treating it can be relatively simple. If you haven't yet started a regular oral hygiene routine, talk to your dentist about how to get started.
Your dentist can show you how to brush and floss and can recommend techniques to use to help your mouth get as clean as possible. They can also perform a cleaning at your next check-up to remove plaque and tartar. Treating gum disease can also help to fix bad breath.
If your bad breath is due to food or lifestyle habits, such as smoking, adjusting your diet and quitting smoking can help fix the breath issue. Your dentist can point you in the direction of stop-smoking resources if you need them.
Your dentist might also recommend using mouthwash to kill the bacteria that cause bad breath.
Seeing your dentist regularly is the best way to get on top of bad breath and keep it from interfering with your life.