Common causes and cures for bad breath

Common Causes and Cures for Bad Breath

May 1, 2017
There are many things we want to be remembered for – a stunning smile, infectious laugh, or generous spirit. No one wants to be known for their bad breath.

The first thing that comes to my mind when the subject comes up, or I’m trying to cover up my coffee breath while speaking to a coworker, is my 8th grade French teacher, Madame D. Even though I’m well into adulthood myself. 

Her bad, or what Merriam-Webster would call “fetid,” breath was widely whispered about in the classroom. You dreaded being called to her desk or having to ask her a question after class. She exuded an overpowering scent that was one part coffee, one part just plain nasty. I’m sure Madame D would rather be remembered for her inspiring teaching and mastery of the language of love. 

You, of course, don’t want to be remembered that way either. You brush your teeth twice a day. You gargle with mouthwash. You see your dentist regularly. Yet, you still have awful breath. Why do you feel so alone with this problem and so ashamed to ask for help?

The good news about bad breath:
  • You’re not alone. Up to 80 million people are feeling self-conscious and covering up their mouths right alongside you.
  • 85% of bad breath causes come from inside the mouth, which makes it an easy target to attack.
  • There are simple, sure-fire cures for most cases, although it may require a little experimentation.

But still, it’s embarrassing, and it has a stigma connected to it that can have huge ramifications on your personal and professional life. You try to avoid getting close to anyone when speaking, putting your hand over your mouth and apologizing for your coffee/garlic/whatever breath. And, it definitely isn’t good for your love life, whether you’re in a new or long-term relationship.

You would want a close friend or family member to tell you if you have a problem, but it’s difficult to know how and when to tell someone that their breath is offensive. It’s a sticky, and stinky, issue to deal with, whether it’s temporary bad breath from eating something with a strong flavor or halitosis, which is chronic bad breath. While you can mask the smell with gum or mints, it’s not a cure. You can’t truly rid yourself of it until you understand its underlying causes.

Halitosis occurs when bacteria build-up in your mouth and between your teeth that aren’t properly cleaned away. The bacteria produce foul-smelling sulfur compounds as waste. 

There are many causes for halitosis: 

  • Poor dental hygiene habits
  • Consuming food and beverages such as garlic, onions, and coffee
  • Low-carb diets 
  • A dry mouth 
  • Dehydration
  • Not visiting your dentist regularly to catch problems, such as cavities, early on
  • Infections in your mouth from tooth decay or dental work that hasn’t healed properly
  • Food trapped between dentures
  • Not removing dentures at night and cleaning them properly 
  • Acid reflux 
  • Sinus issues 
  • Tonsillitis or other undiagnosed diseases
  • Tobacco use resulting in “smokers breath”

How to get rid of halitosis and treat bad breath?  

  • Brush for at least two minutes, two times a day using a soft toothbrush and an ADA-approved toothpaste.
  • Floss daily.
  • Scrape or brush your tongue every time you brush.
  • Rinse with mouthwash.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Visit your dentist for regular cleanings.

Whatever the cause, there are simple things you can do to overcome most issues with bad breath. However, if you’ve tried everything above and nothing seems to help, you should visit your family doctor for a thorough checkup.

If you have any questions or concerns about your oral health, talk to your dentist. They're aware of the latest studies and products that will help you reach your healthiest smile.

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