Bad Breath

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A common question we get in our dental office is – “What causes bad breath?”

Many times the complaint is not from the offender but from a long suffering spouse or family member.  There are many causes of bad breath (which may also be called “halitosis”) – some serious and some not. The good news is diagnosing and treating bad breath is something that can easily be done in most cases.

Here is a list, in no particular order, of the reasons people may be slowly backing up during conversations:

         Foods Containing Strong Smelling Oils

Yes – garlic and onions are very healthy, but they also contain oils, which may cause an unhealthy reaction to those around you.  These odors originate in the lungs, can last up to 72 hours and can be tough to cover up.  Mints, gum, and rinses are your best bet to alleviate the problem– or make sure everyone around you has had the same yummy food as well!

Routine Illnesses

Colds, sinus problems, infections can all cause yucky smelling mucus, to get trapped in our mouths, throats and noses, which causes foul breath until the illness is taken care of.  Of course, if you have one of these highly contagious problems you shouldn’t be that  close to someone anyway!  If a sinus infection, sore throat , cough or cold doesn’t clear up in a few days to a week, you should probably see your physician to make sure things aren’t of a serious nature.

Dry Mouth

When your mouth is dry it lets more bacteria settle in your mouth.  And while morning breath is a perfectly normal phenomenon due to lowered salivary activity at night – it shouldn’t last all day.  Those who snore, mouth – breath, take certain medications, or are middle aged are prone to a dry mouth.


Smoking dries out your mouth (see above) and also, tobacco just plain stinks.  If lung cancer and heart disease aren’t reason enough to give up smoking, maybe a constant foul mouth will help you make that life-saving decision.

Chronic Diseases or Conditions

Many serious diseases such as lung infections, kidney failure, diabetes, cancer, GERD, anorexia, bulimia and others can cause very specific types of halitosis.  The good news is that these are on the rare side, but if anything along these lines is suspected, a referral to the appropriate practitioner is in order.

Poor Dental Hygiene and Gum Disease

Ahhh…this is our favorite!  Not because we like people to have poor dental hygiene and gum disease, but because these are very common causes of bad breath and we can usually treat them quite easily.  But please don’t wait to long!  Gum disease, which usually starts with poor brushing and flossing habits as well as a lack of routine dental visits, can do much more than make your mouth stinky.

In just a shot period of time, gum disease can advance and eat away at the gums and bone which hold your teeth in place.  The result?  Loose, unstable teeth which will eventually be lost if not treated.

Catching gum disease early is great as treatment is typically conservative.  Wait too long and it gets much more difficult and extensive.