These Common Causes of Bad Breath May Surprise You

Bad breath, also called halitosis, can be embarrassing and in some cases may even cause anxiety. It's no wonder that store shelves are overflowing with gum, mints, mouthwashes and other products designed to fight bad breath. But many of these products are only temporary measures because they don't address the cause of the problem.

Bad Breath and Dental Hygiene

The most common cause of bad breath is poor oral hygiene. Bacteria that build up on your teeth particularly between them – as well as your tongue and gums, can produce unpleasant-smelling gases. These bacteria are also responsible for gum disease and tooth decay. If you don't floss and brush your teeth regularly, any food trapped between your teeth will be broken down by the bacteria and may be responsible for bad breath. Bad breath odors vary, depending on the source or the underlying cause. Some people worry too much about their breath even though they have little or no mouth odor, while others have bad breath and don't know it. Because it's difficult to assess how your own breath smells, ask a close friend or relative to confirm your bad-breath questions.

A Change in Your Diet

Food is a primary source of bad odors that come from the mouth. Some foods, such as garlic, onions, spicy foods, exotic spices (such as curry), some cheeses, fish, and acidic beverages such as coffee can leave a lingering smell. Most of the time the odor is short lived. Other foods may get stuck in the teeth, promoting the growth of bacteria and dental plaques, which causes bad breath odor. Low carbohydrate diets may also cause "ketone breath." These diets cause the body to burn fat as its energy source. The end-product of making this energy is ketones, which cause a fruity acetone-like odor on the breath when exhaled. This fruity odor in a diabetic might indicate uncontrolled blood sugars.

What to Do When Brushing Isn’t Enough

There is no long-term, one-size-fits-all solution to fixing bad breath. Much like eating well, you need to keep at it regularly. Since halitosis is caused due to different reasons, the fixes are all temporary and need to be repeated to combat halitosis. However, doing them regularly does reduce how rancid your breath gets and how quickly bad breath builds up in your mouth. Bacteria build up when you have a dry mouth and the obvious way to combat this is to drink water regularly. If your mouth stays hydrated and is producing saliva regularly, you reduce the chances of bad breath. Drill it into your heads, ladies and gents. There is nothing, nothing, nothing as effective as cleaning the back of your tongue regularly. If you can, you should ideally be cleaning it after every meal. If brushing your teeth and scraping your tongue does not fit the decorum of your office, you can turn to rinsing with mouthwash. Rinsing and gargling is better at washing away bacteria than chewing gum or popping a mint, but this is still a temporary fix and not as thorough as scraping your tongue.

When All Else Fails, Talk to Your Dentist

If you have bad breath, review your oral hygiene habits. Try making lifestyle changes, such as brushing your teeth and tongue after eating, using dental floss, and drinking plenty of water.

If your bad breath persists after making such changes, see your dentist. If your dentist suspects a more serious condition is causing your bad breath, he or she may refer you to a physician to find the cause of the odor.