What causes bad breath and how you can beat it
Do family and friends take a big step back when you speak? Get more offers of mints and gum than you can count? You might have chronic bad breath (halitosis).
Bad breath is an embarrassing and annoying problem. But with some simple lifestyle and oral care changes, it’s also beatable. Good—and consistent—oral hygiene is usually all it takes to keep mouth odors at bay.
Main causes of bad breath
Bacteria in the mouth are usually at the root of bad breath—especially on the tongue and gums. While garlic, coffee, onions and sugary foods are big causes of mouth odors, other factors include:
- Poor dental habits: Poor brushing and flossing allow food particles to decay in your mouth and cause odors.
- Periodontal (gum) disease: Gum disease is caused by a buildup of plaque and decay in the teeth. Bad breath is a warning sign.
- Dry mouth: Medications, salivary gland problems, breathing from the mouth or even dieting can cause dry mouth and trigger smelly breath.
- Tobacco: Cigarettes, cigars and chewing tobacco cause bad breath by reducing saliva flow and leaving smelly residue in the mouth
Why gum and mints don’t help
Ever wonder why your breath still smells bad even after you’ve popped a mint? A key ingredient in many bad breath “cures” (like mints) is sugar. Smelly mouth bacteria feed on sugar to quickly reproduce, which makes your halitosis even worse.
Tip: Chew sugar-free gum and drink plenty of water to keep saliva flowing in your mouth.
How to stop bad breath
The good news? Proper oral hygiene or treatment of periodontal disease can begin to cure bad breath almost immediately. Here’s how:
- Brush your teeth twice a day, limit snacking, drink water throughout the day and use a soft-bristled brush.
- Floss to remove dental plaque from places that your toothbrush can’t reach. Food debris left between your teeth can cause bad breath and lead to gum disease.
- Avoid sweets and other empty-calorie snacks that cause tooth decay. Bacteria and sugar produce acids that attack the teeth.
Talk to your dentist
Regular dental checkups will remove the buildup of plaque and bacteria that causes odor. Only your dentist can determine if your bad breath problem is a result of a serious oral health problem.