Photo of a team member and a patient bumping elbows

What Causes Bad Breath?

Bad breath can be embarrassing. In some cases, it can even cause anxiety. About 30 percent of people worry about having bad breath, also known as halitosis, which explains why there are countless mints, gum, mouthwashes, and other breath-freshening products available today.

Unfortunately, many of these products provide only temporary results because they don’t address the underlying causes of bad breath. These causes can include certain foods, health conditions, and personal lifestyle habits. Addressing the underlying causes of halitosis can help you prevent bad breath. 

How Do I Know If I Have Bad Breath?

It’s not always easy to know if you have bad breath. Some people think they have bad breath when they don’t, while others are blissfully unaware that they have halitosis.

Bad breath can be an embarrassing discovery, especially if you didn't know that you have halitosis. You can always ask someone you trust to smell your breath and give you an honest assessment. Your dentist can also provide feedback about your breath.

If you don’t feel comfortable asking someone to smell your breath, you can try this self-test: lick the inside of your wrist then smell it.  You can also floss your back teeth and sniff the floss, or scrape your tongue with a toothbrush or tongue scraper then smell them.

When Should I See a Dentist about My Bad Breath?

If you are like many people with halitosis, you may not be sure when to see a dentist about your bad breath. Before you see your dentist:

  • Review your oral hygiene habits, such as brushing and flossing regularly, brushing your teeth and tongue after meals or snacks, and seeing your dentist regularly
  • Make lifestyle changes, such as avoiding foods that cause bad breath, quitting smoking, and drinking plenty of water

If your halitosis continues, see your dentist. We can help you find the source of your bad breath and help you find treatments that provide fresh breath.

Causes of Bad Breath

Not surprisingly, the cause of bad breath can usually be found in your mouth. These bad breath causes include:

  • Food – chewing breaks down food in and around your teeth, which can increase bacteria and cause a foul odor; onions, garlic, spices and other foods break down in your digestive tract, enter your bloodstream and are carried to your lungs, where they cause bad breath
  • Tobacco products create their own unpleasant odor inside your mouth; smoking or using chewing tobacco can also cause gum disease, which also triggers halitosis
  • Poor dental hygiene – brushing and flossing removes the food particles that cause bad breath; oral hygiene also prevents cavity-causing plaque and gum disease
  • Dry mouth – saliva rinses away particles that cause bad breath
  • Certain medications can contribute to dry mouth to produce bad breath; other medications release chemicals that cause mouth odors
  • Oral infections, such as those caused by tooth decay, gum disease, mouth sores, or even wounds after oral surgery or tooth removal
  • Other mouth, nose and throat conditions, such as sinus or throat infections, inflammation, or even small stones that can form in tonsils
  • Diseases, such as cancer, metabolic disorders, GERD, and others can trigger bad breath

Diagnosis of Bad Breath

Your dentist will probably smell the breath from your nose and from your mouth, and rate the odor on a scale of 1 to 10. Your dentist may also scrape the back of your tongue, as this is the most common source of odor. 

How to Treat and Prevent Bad Breath

The good news is that you can treat and prevent bad breath before it becomes offensive. What’s even better is that the techniques you use for bad breath treatment can also prevent halitosis.

Halitosis treatment and prevention includes:

  • Brushing your teeth after you eat
  • Brushing your tongue to remove any odor-causing bacteria it harbors
  • Using an antibacterial toothpaste
  • Flossing at least once daily to remove the odor-causing food particles and plaque that get caught between your teeth
  • Mouth rinses and toothpastes to kill the bacteria that cause bad breath
  • Treating dental diseases, such as gum disease and cavities
  • Replacing faulty tooth restorations, as they can be breeding grounds for bacteria
  • Use a tongue scraper if a significant overgrowth of bacteria from smoking or dry mouth coats your tongue; some toothbrushes have a built-in tongue cleaner
  • Keep your dentures, mouth guard or other dental appliances clean
  • Avoid dry mouth by chewing sugar-free gum or sucking on sugar-free candy, drinking plenty of water, and staying away from tobacco, coffee, soft drinks and alcohol that can cause dry mouth
  • Avoid onions, garlic, and sugary foods known to cause bad breath
  • Get a new soft-bristled toothbrush about once every three to four months, or when it becomes frayed
  • See your dentist regularly for dental checkups and teeth cleaning – twice a year is about right for most people

For more information on the causes of bad breath and ways to prevent it, contact your dentist at Preston Dental Loft. Our dentist in Cary, NC, provides a “wow” dental experience that can bring out the best in your smile. 

connect with us

We'd love to help you Smile with Confidence. Call our Cary dental office today or request an appointment online to set up your visit. We'll be in touch soon.

location & hoursSchedule an appointment