What causes bad breath and how to fix it

Bad breath, or halitosis, can be very frustrating and embarrassing. There are many factors that cause bad breath both from your mouth and sometimes even systemically.

The most common causes of bad breath are:

  • Poor oral hygiene habits. Brushing and flossing daily in addition to using a mouth rinse helps keep the mouth, teeth, gums and even tongue healthy. Good oral hygiene reduces the sticky film of bacteria, called plaque. If this layer of bacteria is not removed, you are likely to get gingivitis (bleeding gums) and form pockets between your teeth and gums called periodontitis.
  • Food. Some foods like dairy, garlic, onions, some spices and even consuming a lot of sugary foods can cause bad breath. After foods enter your digestive system, they enter the bloodstream and are then carried to your lungs that can ultimately lead to bad breath.
  • Tobacco products. Smoking as well as smokeless tobacco products cause bad breath. Users are likely to develop gum disease (periodontitis) which as mentioned above, is a cause of bad breath.
  • Health problems and medications. Bronchitis, pneumonia, postnasal drip, chronic sinus infections, diabetes, acid reflux, and kidney or liver problems have shown to be a cause of bad breath. Some medications cause bad breath as they create chemicals that give off odors.
  • Dry mouth (xerostomia). When we aren’t producing enough saliva, our mouths aren’t properly cleansed of the odor causing food particles, bacteria and dead cells. Saliva also helps neutralize acids produced by plaque and can cause cavities. Dry mouth can be caused by some medications, problems with salivary glands, and some diseases. Mouth breathing at night when saliva production is already decreased, will lead to bad breath in the mornings.
  • Infections. Oral infections may include gum disease, mouth sores, infected or decayed teeth and surgical wounds.
  • Tonsil stones. These are white or yellow calcified formations that collect in the crypts of your tonsils and are covered in bacteria. Removing them is easy. Use a cotton swab, back end of a toothbrush or low-pressure oral irrigator and very gently express them out.

Home remedies to reduce bad breath include:

  • Good oral hygiene habits like brushing and flossing. Using a fluoride toothpaste twice a day. This will also decrease cavities and gum disease.
  • Brush your tongue or use a tongue scraper. That white film on your tongue is plaque and will help reduce bad breath when removed.
  • Sometimes brushing after all meals is needed if you notice chronic bad breath.
  • Floss at least daily and use a mouth rinse.
  • Stop using tobacco products.
  • To avoid dry mouth, drink lots of water and keep your mouth moist. Biotene is a product that helps moisturize and can be purchased at most stores and in many forms such as toothpaste, gel, rinse and even gum.
  • Chewing gum – sugar free and those that have xylitol are best.
  • Make sure you change your toothbrush/toothbrush head every 2-3 months, when frayed, or after being sick.
  • Clean dentures and removable denture appliances twice a day or after meals. Clean under fixed appliances such as bridges and implants at least twice a day. Make sure to take dentures out at night and soak in denture cleaner.
  • Avoid those foods that cause bad breath.