What Causes Bad Breath?

What Causes Bad Breath in Adults and in Children?

Bad breath has a fancy medical name–halitosis. Bad breath has a few common causes, but for the most part it happens when a person has poor dental hygiene. In some rare cases, bad breath is a symptom of another disease and is not caused by poor hygiene at all but by something organic in the body. Then there is everyday bad breath that anyone gets from eating certain foods, smoking, or other bad habits.

Foods that Cause Bad Breath

Don’t worry about avoiding garlic, onions, or other “stinky” foods. All food can cause bad breath. How you take care of your mouth in everyday life effects your bad breath more than eating a specific food. Here’s how it works:

1. The process of digestion starts in the mouth, not in the stomach. All of the food you eat starts to break down in your mouth. Food is further digested and absorbed into your bloodstream as it passes through your body.

What Causes Bad Breath in Adults and in Children?

2. Some of the food you eat is stuck between teeth and on the insides of your mouth. As this food breaks down, it creates a bad smell.

3. Even if you were to chew all your food perfectly and make sure none of it stuck in your teeth, the breakdown of food in the back of the mouth and your throat would create a smell. Naturally, if the food you ate smells particularly strong, you’re more likely to have bad-smelling breath, but the problem isn’t what you eat, it’s how you clean your teeth.

Keep Your Mouth Clean

If you don’t brush and floss regularly, you’ll have worse breath after a meal than a person with a clean mouth. This is because more food sticks to your teeth since they are sticky with plaque.

Keeping your mouth clean means you’ll be less likely to have bad breath after a meal. If your mouth isn’t clean, food particles will stick to the surfaces in your mouth. This grows a lot of bacteria between your teeth, around your gums, and even on your tongue. This causes bad breath.

Change Your Habits

In addition to adding a habit of brushing and flossing multiple times a day, you need to change other habits to keep your breath smelling fresh.

If you smoke or use any tobacco-based product, you will probably have bad breath. Even chewing tobacco affects your breath, affects the surfaces of your teeth, stains your teeth and gums, and causes general mouth irritation, leading to bad breath.

You may also want to cut back on sugary snacks and drinks, as they can irritate gums and damage teeth even faster than food. Colas and sugary juices are just as bad for your teeth as solid food and can cause bad breath.

Health Problems Related to Bad Breath

If you have persistent problems with bad breath, or if you constantly have a bad taste in your mouth, you may have gum disease. Called “periodontal disease” by doctors and dentists, gum disease happens when plaque builds up on tooth surfaces, accumulates bacteria and toxins, and eventually irritates and destroys the gums. When gum disease goes untreated, damage is done to the teeth, gums, and even the jawbone itself.

Other health problems that could be indicated by bad breath are yeast infections (believe it or not, you can have a yeast infection in your mouth), dental problems such as broken teeth, and even certain kinds of cancers. Persistent bad breath should be discussed with a dentist or family doctor.

Other Health Problems That Cause Bad Breath

Persistent dry mouth (known as xerostomia) causes bad breath in most patients. Your mouth needs saliva to stay moist and saliva also acts to neutralize acids produced naturally by plaque. Saliva also cleans dead cells that accumulate all over the surfaces of your mouth, and if you don’t have enough saliva, your mouth will turn sour quickly. Dry mouth is usually caused by a medication, a disease of the salivary glands, or by improper breathing, such as persistent mouth-breathing.

Since bad breath is also linked to respiratory tract infections, chronic sinus infections, postnasal drip, diabetes, acid reflux, and even liver or kidney problems, you should discuss persistent bad breath and dry mouth with a medical professional.

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