Having bad breath, it’s really embarrassing. It can be for both you and the person who got up the nerve to tell you as well. It may have shaken your confidence or even caused you not to want to open your mouth. But it’s important to know what’s behind the odor and what you can do to address it.
What is Bad Breath?
Chronic bad breath odor is usually referred to as “halitosis.” Bad breath is most noticeable as a mouth odor when talking to other people, causing them to turn away or back up during conversations. In most situations, chronic halitosis is caused by an imbalance of specific bacteria inside your mouth.
What are the Most Common Reasons for Bad Breath?
There are a lot of reasons to rule out on your way to combating bad breath. Depending on your specific situation, the best bad breath solutions will vary based on the cause of the odor. First, here are some of the most common sources of bad breath odor:
- Xerostomia (persistent dry mouth).
- Periodontal (gum) disease.
- Smoking or tobacco use.
- Chronic sinus infections.
- Gastrointestinal problems or reflux.
- Ketosis (which can be caused by the popular Keto diet).
- Bacteria buildup on removable appliances (dentures, partials, etc.).
- Underlying medical condition(s).
- Poor oral hygiene.
Your daily routine and plaque control methods have a lot to do with treating bad breath. Thorough brushing, flossing, and a good flow of saliva are essential for good oral hygiene. Yes, you can prevent bad breath (in most cases) with the right tools, but if you have bad breath even after brushing and flossing, there’s likely a bigger issue that needs your attention—namely, an infection down below your gum line.
Which Bacteria Cause Bad Breath?
Your mouth is full of all different types of good and bad bacteria. In fact, there are approximately 700 species of bacteria that potentially reside in your mouth. Depending on the type of bacterial strain, they can be located anywhere from the surface of your tongue to the deep gum pockets around your teeth. Specifically, volatile sulfur compound (VSC)-producing bacteria colonizing the mouth have been identified as the cause of halitosis. It’s this foul-smelling sulfur byproduct excreted as waste by oral bacteria that result in halitosis.
Additionally, certain diseases can cause a distinctive odor, and issues like periodontitis (gum disease) can cause a particularly potent smell that’s distinguishable from the others.
So when the biofilm becomes imbalanced, you can develop halitosis. Ultimately, the best bad breath fix isn’t about trying to target a specific bacterium but rather targeting and dealing with the conditions that allow the imbalance and bacterial overgrowth in the first place.
What are Health Problems Associated with Bad Breath?
In addition to foods that can cause bad breath, there are many medical conditions associated with bad breath.
For instance, if you have diabetes or on a ketogenic diet, you might notice a particular “sweet” smell coming from your mouth. Bad breath and the keto diet or diabetes often go hand in hand because of how closely related overall wellness is to your oral health.
For individuals who constantly battle chronic nasal allergies, sinus infections, or have a known GI condition such as acid reflux, it’s normal to expect bad breath.
Dry mouth (xerostomia) can make it worse, and unfortunately, it’s a common side effect of the medications that people take to manage a lot of different conditions. If improved oral care and excellent hygiene don’t help, and your dentist rules out any dental-related causes, you might want to speak with your general practitioner to get screened for a potential medical condition.
The Most Common Ways to Reduce Bad Breath
Now that you’re familiar with the most common causes of bad breath, you may be wondering how best to combat it. Simply put, the best bad breath remedy is prevention. And how do you prevent bad breath? By eliminating sulfur compounds and plaque biofilm from your teeth and gums. Usually, this involves physical removal with your toothbrush and floss. But if you have chronic halitosis, there are specific things you should be sure you’re doing:
- Ensure you see your dentist and hygienist at least every six months for a professional cleaning and checkup.
- Don’t skip the flossing, and make sure your floss reaches down under the gums against your teeth.
- You must brush your teeth for at least two minutes at a time, twice per day, as recommended by the American Dental Association (ADA).
- Use a tongue scraper to remove food debris and the sulfur compounds because many bad breath bacteria reside on the tongue.
- Combat dry mouth by drinking plenty of water. This helps clear the bacteria out of your oral cavity.
- Avoid high carbohydrate foods and sugars (including artificial sweeteners) which fuel more bacterial growth.
- Chew gum with xylitol to help prevent biofilm from accumulating in your mouth.
- Switch to a phototherapy toothbrush that incorporates blue light.
Nobody likes being told they have bad breath, but now you have a better understanding of what it is, what causes it, and the steps you can take to prevent it. Since bacteria account for such a large percentage of what causes bad breath odors, incorporating adjunctive oral hygiene aids like a blue light into your daily oral hygiene plan makes it easier for you to target the common causes of bad breath right at their source. As a result, you’ll not only enjoy fresher breath; you’ll also have a healthier and brighter smile.