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What Causes Bad Breath?

Nearly 50% of Americans suffer from severe and chronic bad breath, also known as halitosis. While bad breath is usually an easy fix, some more severe cases require a dental or medical diagnosis. Since 2020, more and more people have been wearing masks that accentuate bad breath. It could be the smell from the inside of your mask that has indicated it is time to find out what causes bad breath. Or, maybe a co-worker has been avoiding conversations with you. Whatever the reason, it is crucial to understand that bad breath may be more than just the broccoli you ate for lunch.

It Starts with the Tongue

man with bad breath

Not only is our mouth the gateway to the body, but our tongue is also a magnet for bacteria. Whatever germs we breathe in, whatever food or drink we consume, and whatever infections lurk in our bodies, the tongue is usually the first point of contact. The American Dental Association has advised that most odor-causing bacteria produce compounds that cause bad breath. These compounds attach and grow on the back of our tongue. Some things that can accelerate their growth:

  • Dry Mouth. Without saliva to wash away bacteria, the odor-causing compounds will stay in our mouths. 
  • Poor Dental Hygiene. If you are not brushing and flossing twice per day for two minutes each time, your oral hygiene routine may need improvement. Lack of dental cleanliness is a cause of bad breath and will only feed the bacteria living in your mouth.
  • Bad Diet. Foods that are naturally more odorous (broccoli, garlic, certain seasonings, etc.) can cause bad breath. If you notice that your bad breath gets worse with certain foods, try to avoid these foods or brush your teeth and use mouth wash after consuming.

Internal and External

External factors, like your diet, are not the only causes of bad breath. Several internal factors cause chronic bad breath that requires diagnosis, intervention, and treatment.

  1. Diabetes. Diabetes increases the amount of glucose in your system. More glucose means more bacteria lingering in your mouth.
  2. Gingivitis or Periodontal Disease. These diseases can spread and need to be diagnosed by a dentist.
  3. Kidney Disease, Liver Disease, Systemic Conditions. Because kidneys and livers filter out most of the ‘gunk’ we bring into our bodies via our diet, it can carry the bacteria throughout our bloodstream when this organ becomes diseased. This can result in bad breath through the blood vessels in the gums.
  4. Tonsillitis or Tonsil Stones. These yellowish stones grow on our tonsils and can become large and inflamed if not treated. They are a collection of bacteria, so when these start to hang out in your mouth, you may notice more bad breath. In severe cases, you may begin to cough these up. Large stones require removal by a dentist.

See Your Dentist Regularly

No matter what is causing your bad breath, it is essential to establish care with a dental professional. Seeing your dentist twice per year is the best way to prevent severe issues and allows your dental provider the ability to detect, diagnose, and treat any problems that may arise. In addition, if bad breath happens to be caused by an underlying illness, a dentist will be able to refer you to the right medical specialist. It is important to remember that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. If you need a dentist, we would be happy to care for your mouth! Please schedule an appointment with us online! New patients are being offered an initial exam, x-rays, and cleaning for just $59. We look forward to serving you.

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