Why You Have Bad Breath—And What You Can Do About It
At some point, everyone gets bad breath. Whether it’s a lingering smell from onions and garlic or that unpleasant phenomenon known as “morning breath,” we’ve all had moments when we wished our breath were a little fresher.
But if your bad breath hangs around even after you brush your teeth, it’s possible you might have halitosis or chronic bad breath. While halitosis is common, affecting roughly 25 percent of adults, it’s also easy to control once you understand what causes halitosis and how you can fix it.
Underlying Causes of Bad Breath
There are a number of factors that can lead to chronic bad breath. First and foremost is poor oral hygiene. Food particles start to accumulate around your teeth the moment they enter your mouth, and without proper flossing and brushing, they harden into plaque. This plaque harbors bacteria that cause the foul odor you know as bad breath. While regular professional cleanings help, the majority of your oral health is up to you.
The foods you eat can also contribute to halitosis. Foods with more processed sugar — like candy, soda, and processed foods — encourage the growth of odor-causing bacteria. Alternatively, foods like milk, apples, and nuts can actually clear out bacteria and restore your mouth’s proper pH balance.
Dry mouth is often overlooked as a cause of halitosis. Saliva helps your body to clear food particles out of your mouth. If your body doesn’t produce enough saliva — a condition known as chronic dry mouth — then the bacteria in your mouth will start to produce more bad smells.
Tobacco use can also cause bad breath, as can certain medications or medical conditions like diabetes. While some of these factors can be eliminated on your own, other conditions might require more intervention from your dentist.
Do I Have Bad Breath?
It’s surprisingly difficult to notice your own bad breath. If you’re concerned about your breath, you can ask a close friend or partner to give you an honest assessment. If you’d rather perform your own test, one option is to lick your wrist, let the saliva dry, and then smell your wrist. It sounds strange, but it works!
How to Deal with Bad Breath
If you’re dealing with halitosis or you’re concerned that you might develop bad breath, there are several ways you can work to reverse or prevent the condition.
Developing an Oral Hygiene Regimen
This is the easiest and most consistent way for you to beat bad breath. Your oral hygiene regimen should include:
- Brushing and flossing twice daily
- Using a tongue scraper every morning
- Replacing your toothbrush every few months (especially once you notice the brush starting to fray)
One new and completely natural method of oral hygiene is called “oil pulling.” In this technique, you swish a tablespoon of coconut oil around your mouth for 15 – 20 seconds before spitting it out and rinsing your mouth with warm water. While it may sound unusual, the oil absorbs the bacteria from your mouth, leaving you much cleaner—and less likely to have bad breath.
A good oral hygiene regimen isn’t just important for you, either. If you have children, you should make sure they start developing good brushing and flossing habits at an early age.
As the saying goes, you are what you eat. Making the right dietary choices promotes oral health and can also help to prevent halitosis. When it comes to bad breath, you should opt for more natural foods, like fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as nuts.
These raw, crunchy foods act like toothbrushes, working to sweep away food particles. They also contain natural elements that increase saliva production and fight odor. Dairy products, like milk and yogurt, also contain active cultures that can help to control the odor-causing bacteria in your mouth.
Drinking Enough Water
Staying hydrated is another important part of keeping your breath fresh. Like saliva, water helps wash away bacteria and food particles, as well as developing plaque, without introducing the bacteria-promoting sugars found in sodas and juice.
Visit Your Dentist
Getting your teeth cleaned every six months is an important part of controlling the plaque and bacteria in your mouth. Your dentist has the right tools and techniques to clean your teeth more thoroughly than you can at home. You can think of these cleanings as a kind of reset button for your teeth. Once that cleaning is done, it’s up to you to maintain proper oral hygiene habits.
Your dentist can also identify underlying issues that might be causing your bad breath. If you’re concerned about halitosis, you should mention it to your dentist, so they can be on the lookout for potential causes.
For instance, during your appointment, your dental hygienist might notice that your mouth is unusually dry. The dentist may determine that your bad breath is due to dry mouth. At this point, the dentist may ask you a few questions to get to the root cause of the issue, like whether you snore at night or if you have trouble breathing through your nose. By getting to the root cause of your halitosis, your dentist can help you to solve the problem for good.
Mastering Bad Breath
Chronic bad breath can make you feel miserable. You might feel embarrassed or start to feel the need to avoid social situations and romantic encounters. But you don’t have to live with bad breath. With the right habits and the help of your dentist, you can make bad breath a thing of the past.
At Ablantis Dental in Encinitas, California, Dr. Claudia Cortadi and her team can help you with any aspect of your oral health. Contact Ablantis today for a consultation!