Uncovering The Reasons For Your Bad Breath

Uncovering The Reasons For Your Bad Breath

“I brush and floss, but I still have bad breath.” We hear this a lot, and while you may not be happy about it, you’re not alone. In fact, bad breath, or halitosis, is estimated to affect 1 in 4 people around the world, and can manifest as thick saliva, postnasal drip, a bitter metallic taste in your mouth and a white coating on your tongue (gross, right?).

Bad breath comes from the anaerobic, sulfur-emitting bacteria in the mouth and can be tricky because there are various causes.

And even though you might feel self-conscious talking about it, the more details you can provide will help our dentist to address the underlying cause and find a solution that works.

The good news is, by eliminating potential causes we can figure out what’s making your breath smell and help you remedy it. So the first step is coming in and talking to Dr. Powell openly. That way he can work through the possibilities and find the right solution.

Some potential causes of bad breath are:

Dry Mouth

Sufficient saliva levels are important to neutralize plaque acids and remove food particles that can cause bad odors.

Over time, dry mouth, or xerostomia, even leads to tooth decay. And while dry mouth can happen if you sleep with your mouth open, there are some other causes of dry mouth:

  • Medication. Some have drying agents, so you’ll want to drink lots of water and avoid caffeine and alcohol. Chew sugar-free gum, mints or lozenges with xylitol to stimulate saliva production.
  • Aging. Unfortunately, aging naturally slows down saliva production.
  • Poor breathing. If you chronically breath through the mouth, you’ll end up with dry mouth.

Health Conditions

Bad breath can also be caused by medical conditions like cancers and metabolic disorders (which give off a distinct, bad breath odor from the treatment chemicals and byproducts).

If you notice a “fishy” smell, it could be from kidney or liver failure or even diabetes. Uncontrolled diabetes can also leave you with a “fruity” breath odor.

Chronic reflux of the stomach acids, or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), also needs to be ruled out, since it can make your breath smell.

Sinus Conditions

Your sinuses can also affect your breath. Sinus infections cause bad odors, but post nasal drip can also give off bad breath. This happens from the excess mucus as it “drips” down the back of your throat, making that environment ripe for bacteria to thrive.

Tonsil nuggets (or stones) are another thing that may be caused partly by your sinuses since oral debris and mucous get trapped in the pockets resulting in bacteria buildup, forming smelly stones.


As the digestive process starts in the mouth, it can help to tweak your diet. Food travels from the mouth through the esophagus into the stomach where it is digested and absorbed. Pungent foods (like garlic, onions and spices) give off such strong odors that they cause the particles passing through the bloodstream into the lungs to actually exhale those odors!

Even brushing, flossing or rinsing may not stop the odor until those particles pass through the body. You can, however, nosh on fibrous fruits and vegetables, like apples and celery, to remove oral bacteria AND moisten your mouth. You can also drink green and black teas to get rid of sulfur compounds and oral bacteria.

Poor Habits

Making sure that you’re doing your part with your oral health can also make a big difference.

Smoking & Tobacco

Habits like smoking and tobacco use can cause bad breath. Aside from the fact that smoking and tobacco causes cancer, tobacco leaves a strong breath odor, and smoking dries out the mouth and mucosas which causes its own unpleasant mouth odor.

Further, smoking and tobacco use contributes to periodontal disease causing even worse breath as the bacteria collect around the teeth.

Dental Home Care

You also need to be sure that you’re cleaning your teeth properly, using the best toothbrush, and brushing for the right amount of time.

The easiest and most effective way to stop bad breath is to get rid of food particles and plaque that bacteria like to eat. And here’s why this matters — preventing bad breath is easier than treating underlying causes.

Brush at least twice a day (or if you’re really committed, brush after every meal) and don’t forget to floss! Use a soft-bristled electric toothbrush and a fluoride toothpaste.

To make sure you’re brushing and flossing correctly, have our hygienist show you some killer techniques the next time you come in. Remember to clean your tongue to get rid of even more odor-causing bacteria.

Most people brush their tongue, but they may not be reaching the back of the tongue where most of the bacteria hang out.

Along with coating the tongue, bacteria hide out between the teeth and gums, contributing to early gum disease (gingivitis) or advanced periodontal disease (periodontitis) which causes halitosis.

Appliance Care

If you wear dentures or any other oral appliance (retainers, bridge, nightguard) be sure to clean them really well once a day. Seriously, don’t skip this step! Think of your appliance as an extension of your teeth and keep it clean and bacteria-free.

Periodontal Disease

Periodontal disease is also a major source of bad breath because it’s an active infection of the gums.  To effectively treat the infection, a professional deep cleaning can get rid of the bacteria causing odors.

The effects of periodontal disease can also be reduced by taking advantage of laser therapy and perio protect treatments.

Treatment For Bad Breath

The best thing that you can do for bad breath is come in for a professional dental cleaning and exam with our dentist. That way, the source of your bad breath can be properly identified and a custom plan to fit your individual needs can be made.

Additionally, we can go over your at-home oral care routine with you.

The other thing to understand is that treating bad breath is rarely a one-and-done sort of thing. But rather, it’s important to complete any initial treatment and stay on track with maintenance at the recommended time.

If you’re struggling with bad breath, Dr. Powell may prescribe an antibacterial oral rinse, toothpaste, or artificial saliva medication. Whatever your specific needs, together we’ll come up with a plan so that you can stop feeling self-conscious and instead gain the confidence you deserve!

Simply call us today or schedule your visit online.

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