Have you ever wondered what actually causes morning breath? Or just bad breath in general? It’s a pretty common experience and an embarrassing one at that. All it really comes down to is an accumulation of bacteria in the mouth. The medical term for this phenomenon is referred to as halitosis. If you, or someone you know, experience especially unpleasant breath it may be a sign of illness, gum disease or poor oral hygiene. Here are some of the most common causes of halitosis and four simple steps you can use to prevent it from happening to you.
Certain foods and drinks: Certain foods are known for leaving a lingering smell after consumption like garlic, onions or various different spices. Although these foods may temporarily make your breath smell, many believe that this is not a form of halitosis because these odors are not caused by bacteria, but by the food itself. Some foods do increase the amount of bacteria in our mouths during ingestion like meat, fish, cheese or highly acidic beverages like coffee which may develop into an odor.
Poor dental hygiene: One of the most common causes of halitosis is poor dental hygiene. According to dental professionals this accounts for approximately 90% of all cases. Our mouths are naturally filled with bacteria to aid with the breakdown of food; during this process gases are released (these gases tend to release odor). What’s worse is when food gets trapped in-between teeth and continues to break down and rot. Poor dental hygiene can lead to the buildup of plaque resulting in tooth decay (cavities) and gingivitis (gum disease) which both result in chronic bad breath.
Dry mouth: Saliva plays an important role in maintaining a healthy mouth by cleansing and breaking down the buildup of bacteria. When there is a lack of saliva present, buildup of dead cells can develop on your gums and tongue, resulting in an offensive smell. This is the commonly culprit for morning breath, when you’re sleeping saliva production stops almost entirely. This is especially problematic if you tend to sleep with your mouth open. Morning dryness usually corrects itself shortly after waking up. Dryness that persists may be a sign of Xerostomia, a symptom of salivary gland disorder. Certain medications, like antihistamines or diuretics, may also temporarily cause dry mouth.
Smoking: Regular smokers may experience bad breath for a number of reasons. Aside from the obvious presence of chemical and tobacco smells that remain in the respiratory tract after smoking, it also can lead issues with your salivary glands, causing dry mouth. Smokers are also more likely to experience various dental problems that cause bad breath, like gingivitis or oral cancers.
Health concerns: It is estimated that nearly 10% halitosis cases are caused by existing medical conditions. Some common complications that cause halitosis include:
- Digestive problems: Including gastritis, acid reflux and lactose intolerance.
- Organ damage: malfunctioning liver, kidney or pancreas.
- Infections: Throat infections, tonsillitis, bronchitis or lung infections.
How to prevent halitosis
Avoiding halitosis is possible in most cases; by following these four simple steps you should be able to minimize the occurrence of bad breath. If the problem persists, seek out a medical professional.
- Practice good oral hygiene: regular brushing and flossing is essential in maintaining good oral health. Brush twice a day and floss at least once. Be extra diligent before going to bed since that is when your saliva production slows down and is unable to help keep your mouth clean. If you wear dentures or a retainer be sure that they are also properly sterilized regularly.
- Invest in regular check-ups: visiting your dentist semi-annually for a cleaning or oral examination will help maintain the health of your teeth and gums. It can also prevent serious problems through early detection.
- Don’t smoke: We know it’s easier said than done, but not only does smoking cause bad breath, it comes with a long list of health complications.
- Stimulate saliva production: you can add in the saliva production process by drinking ample amounts of water, it is recommended that you drink between six and eight cups a day. Chewing sugarless gum also helps stimulate saliva in the mouth and helps keep it clear of bacteria buildup.