What Causes Bad Breath And Is There Anything I Can Do To Prevent It?

The Woodlands and Houston, TX

Having bad breath is something that everyone has worried about at one point or another. One of the most obvious causes for bad breath is one that you likely already knew, food. But what you eat doesn’t just leave a residual odor inside of your mouth, there’s a bit more to it. When you eat food and chew it to break it down, there are always going to be tiny left over particles of it that stay between your teeth and leave behind a foul odor of whatever it was you were eating. However, food can take it one step further and stem bad breath to a digestive cause. When people eat things such as onions, garlic, and certain spices such as curry, as they enter the digestive tract and begin to get broken down, they create pungent digestive byproducts that are absorbed into your bloodstream, which inevitably leads back to your lungs where they are given off in your breath until whatever food that’s causing them has been fully metabolized.

Additionally, bad breath can easily be traced back to common dental problems, such as periodontal disease. When people have poor dental hygiene and don’t regularly brush and floss, they are left with tiny pieces of food being left behind in their mouth. When this happens, it allows your mouth to become an ideal environment for bacterial growth. Unfortunately, many common oral bacteria emit byproducts such as hydrogen sulfides, which tend to give off incredibly foul odors. When left to proliferate in your mouth, the bacteria also lead to the formation of plaque, a colorless and sticky biofilm of bacteria on your teeth. When this plaque isn’t appropriately removed by brushing and flossing, it leads to gum irritation and gingivitis that can lead to tooth decay, and eventually progress to damage of supporting tissue around your teeth, causing periodontitis. Dental conditions such as these almost always create foul smelling breath as a side effect. It’s also important to note that the same principles of oral hygiene also apply to your tongue, which has a textured surface that odor causing bacteria can easily get stuck on, and dentures, which can also serve as a haven for bacteria if they aren’t kept clean and properly fitting.

Bad breath can also be caused when we don’t have enough saliva in our mouths, due to decreased salivary flow or production. A crucial part to the digestive process, our saliva starts to digest our food before we even swallow it and helps to naturally flush out odor causing debris from our mouths. Dry mouth, also called Xerostomia, can be caused my many things, such as: salivary gland problems, medication side effects, and breathing through your mouth, especially during sleep, which can help lead to morning breath.

In some people, the cause for bad breath may not even be related to their mouth, but rather occur as a secondary side effect of certain medical conditions. People with diabetes and kidney or liver failure can end up with a fishy smell being emitted from their breath; while other patients with uncontrolled diabetes can have fruity scented breath caused by metabolic byproducts called ketones. Bad breath has also been associated with a type of chronic acid reflux called gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD.

Many common mouth, nose, and throat conditions can also lead to bad breath. One such example is during a sinus infection which can lead to post-nasal drip, where excess nasal discharge drips from congested sinuses and into your throat, causing an odor. Sometimes bad breath can even be attributed to infections or ulcers within the respiratory tract. Certain conditions such as a cleft palate, which cause visible malformations of the oral-nasal cavity, will often lead to bad breath since they provide additional abnormal space for bacteria to grow. Tonsils can even be the culprit for bad breath in some people. This occurs when bacteria in the tonsils occasionally becomes calcified, forming a stone that can cause an obstruction, resulting in an accumulation of odor causing bacteria.

Another one of the more common causes of bad breath is the use of tobacco products. Smoking is remarkably effective at drying out your mouth, which in and of itself can cause bad breath as mentioned earlier. Using tobacco also puts its users at much higher risk of developing periodontal disease that can often lead to foul smelling breath. On top of these problems already caused by tobacco use, it can also irritate your gum tissue, stain your teeth, and worsen existing tooth decay.

Now to answer what you’re probably wondering, how you can prevent bad breath in the first place. First and foremost, the best preventative solution is to practice good oral hygiene. This means brushing your teeth 2-3 times a day to clear your mouth and tongue of leftover food debris. It is also important to use floss or some sort of interdental cleaner to maintain the health of the spaces between your teeth. Additionally, denture wearers need to make sure to remove and properly clean their dentures each night. Staying hydrated to ensure adequate saliva production, along with decreasing or quitting tobacco use will also play a key role in avoiding the development of bad breath.

For those people who think that it’s easiest to just try and cover up bad breath, it’s important to know that mouthwashes are only a temporary and superficial solution and do not have a long-lasting effect on bad breath. If you are constantly using breath fresheners to hide an unpleasant mouth odor, you should see your dentist. Going in to see your dentist regularly two to three times a year to conduct an oral examination and professional teeth cleaning will allow them to detect and treat conditions such as periodontal disease, dry mouth, or other problems that may be the cause of bad breath and potentially lead to future oral health issues.

If you have any questions concerning bad breath, call the office of Scott Young, D.D.S. We serve The Woodlands, Houston, Kingwood, Spring, and Conroe areas.