Bad Breath

What Causes Bad Breath

Bad breath (halitosis) can be caused by many things. It may be the result of odour-causing foods, tooth decay, periodontal (gum) disease, continued mouth dryness,
use of tobacco products, sinus or respiratory infections, some medical disorders, inadequate oral hygiene or some medications.

Your dentist can help identify the cause and, if it’s due to an oral condition, can develop a treatment plan to eliminate this common source of embarrassment.

What Causes Bad Breath?



What you eat affects the air you exhale. Certain foods, such as garlic and onions, contribute to objectionable breath odour.

Once the food is absorbed into the blood stream, it is transferred to the lungs, where it is expelled. Brushing, flossing and mouthwash will only mask the odour temporarily.
Odours continue until the body eliminates the food.

Dieters may develop unpleasant breath from infrequent eating.

If you don’t brush and floss daily, particles of food remain in the mouth, collecting bacteria, which can cause bad breath.

Food that collects between the teeth, on the tongue and around the gums can rot, leaving an unpleasant odour. Dentures that are not cleaned properly can also harbour
odour-causing bacteria and food particles.

One of the warning signs of periodontal (gum) disease is persistent bad breath or a bad taste in the mouth. Periodontal disease is caused by plaque, the sticky,
colourless film of bacteria that constantly forms on teeth. The bacteria create toxins that irritate the gums. In the advanced stage of the disease, the gums, bone and
other structures that support the teeth become damaged. With regular dental checkups, your dentist can detect and treat periodontal disease early.

Bad breath is also caused by dry mouth (xerostomia), which occurs when the flow of saliva decreases. Saliva is necessary to cleanse the mouth and remove particles that may cause odour.

Dry mouth may be caused by various medications, salivary gland problems or continuously breathing through the mouth.

If you suffer from dry mouth, your dentist may prescribe an artificial saliva or suggest using sugarless candy and increasing your fluid intake.

Tobacco products cause bad breath, stain teeth, reduce one’s ability to taste foods and irritate gum tissues. Tobacco users are more likely to suffer from periodontal disease
and are at greater risk for developing oral cancer. If you use tobacco, ask your dentist for tips on kicking the habit.

Bad breath may be a sign of a medical disorder, such as a local infection in the respiratory tract (nose, throat, windpipe, lungs), chronic sinusitis, postnasal drip,
chronic bronchitis, diabetes, gastrointestinal disturbance, liver or kidney ailment.

If your dentist determines that your mouth is healthy, you may be referred to your family doctor or a specialist to determine the cause of bad breath.

Caring for Your Smile


Eliminating periodontal disease and maintaining good oral health is essential to reducing bad breath. Schedule regular dental visits for a professional cleaning and checkup.

If you think you have bad breath, keep a log of the foods you eat and make a list of medications you take.

Some medications may play a role in creating mouth odours. Let your dentist know if you’ve had any surgery or illness since your last appointment.

Brush twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste to remove food debris and plaque. Brush your tongue too.

Once a day, use floss or an inter-dental cleaner to clean between the teeth.

If you wear removable dentures, take them out at night. Clean them thoroughly before replacing them the next morning.

Mouthwashes are generally cosmetic and do not have a long-lasting effect on bad breath. If you must constantly use a breath freshener to hide unpleasant mouth odour, see your dentist.

If you need extra help in controlling plaque, your dentist may recommend using a special antimicrobial mouthrinse.

A fluoride mouthrinse, using along with brushing and flossing, can help prevent tooth decay.


A lot of people have bad breath that remains for a long time. The medical term for this condition is chronic halitosis. And oddly enough, many people with chronic halitosis
are not even aware of their problem breath.

How is that possible? Because our sense of smell has an incredible ability to adjust to odours.

Have you ever noticed how an offending smell in a closed room seems to lessen over time?

Believe it or not, the room’s odour does not improve, your nose merely gets used to it.

That’s why many people with chronic halitosis falsely believe their breath is perfectly fresh and normal.

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