Bad Breath (Halitosis)

Chronic bad breath, or halitosis, can be embarrassing. Commonly caused by the presence of oral bacteria, bad breath can affect your self-esteem and relationships with others. If you suffer from bad breath, talk to your dentist at your next checkup.

FAQs

What causes bad breath?
Many things can cause bad breath, including:

  • What you eat. Once food is absorbed into the bloodstream, it is transferred to the lungs, where it is expelled. Eating foods such as onions and garlic often create an unpleasant breath odor.
  • Poor oral hygiene. If you don’t brush and floss daily, particles of food remain in the mouth and collect bacteria, which can cause bad breath. Food also gets stuck between teeth, on the tongue and around the gums, often contributing to bad breath.
  • Periodontal (gum) disease or another medical disorder. One of the warning signs of periodontal disease is chronic bad breath or a bad taste in the mouth. Periodontal disease is an infection of the tissues that support your teeth and is caused by the plaque-forming bacteria in your mouth. If your dentist determines your mouth is healthy, you may be referred to your family doctor or a specialist to help determine the cause of bad breath. Bad breath also can signal the presence of other medical conditions, including respiratory tract infections, chronic sinusitis, postnasal drip, diabetes, gastrointestinal disturbance and liver or kidney problems.
  • Leaking filling or crown. Bacteria can survive and create additional decay in a tooth with a filling or crown if there is a gap or fracture. Your dentist can examine your teeth with an X-ray and a visual exam to see if there are any filling or crowns in need of repair.
  • Dry mouth. Dry mouth occurs when saliva flow decreases. Saliva is the body’s natural mouth rinse that washes and dilutes odor-causing bacteria from the mouth. Talk to your dentist if you think you suffer from dry mouth. He or she may recommend an artificial saliva, checking sugarless candy or increasing your fluid intake.
  • Tobacco products. Tobacco users are more likely to suffer from bad breath. If you use tobacco, talk to your dentist about ways to quit.

What can I do about bad breath?
Regular checkups can help your dentist identify and treat any oral problems. Maintain good oral hygiene by brushing twice a day (brush your tongue too!), flossing daily and eating nutritious foods. Though mouthwash will help mask the odor, it is not a permanent solution to bad breath. If you suffer from bad breath, talk to your dentist to help identify its cause and develop a treatment plan.

Resources

American Dental Association: Bad Breath (Halitosis)