There may be few things that are more awkward or embarrassing than bad breath–especially since not many people feel comfortable speaking up to tell you it’s occurring so that you can remedy it. Fortunately, once you understand the common causes for bad breath you can take action to prevent it where possible and resolve it where necessary.
What Causes Bad Breath
Bad breath, or halitosis, is normally caused by the natural process of bacteria in our mouths breaking down leftover food particles that are on or between our teeth, along our gums or on our tongue. This breakdown results in the release of stinky compounds, which is the source of our bad breath. Additionally, the following conditions can also contribute to bad breath:
- Just waking up in the morning. Your saliva helps to fight the bacteria that cause bad breath, but saliva production drops considerably while you sleep. This is the reason behind morning breath.
- Breathing through your mouth. This can dry out your mouth and cause saliva to evaporate before it has a chance to do its job.
- Eating smelly food. Garlic, onions, cabbage, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, radishes and spices are some of the worst offenders, with pungent odors that seem to linger long after you’ve eaten.
- Failing to eat. Eating food helps to stimulate saliva production, while failing to eat forces saliva production to remain low.
- Smoking cigarettes. Smoking can not only dry out your mouth and reduce saliva production, it can contribute to the amount of odor-causing compounds in your mouth.
- Taking medication. Some medications like antihistamines, diuretics, muscle relaxants and more tend to dry out the mouth, reducing saliva.
- The existence of unresolved cavities. Plaque, one of the primary causes of cavities, is composed of the same bacteria that give off odor while breaking down food particles. Cavities can also capture bits of food and can be difficult to clean.
Proper oral hygiene practices, including daily brushing and flossing as well as regular dental examinations and cleanings, are the most effective way to prevent and resolve issues of bad breath. Since some cases of severe and persistent bad breath are the result of medical conditions, it is always helpful to check with your dentist, Dr. Best, and your medical doctor if you are experiencing these issues.
Handling Bad Breath
Since many of the common causes of bad breath have to do with maintaining optimal oral health, handling bad breath is often as simple as instituting good nutrition and oral health habits. Consider the following options:
- Stay hydrated. Not only is sufficient water important to your overall health, it is vital to help protect against bad breath. Your mouth must remain moist in order to produce enough saliva to fight the bacteria that contribute to bad breath.
- Brush and floss every day. Properly brushing and flossing your teeth every single day helps to eliminate the food particles that attract odor-causing bacteria. This can also help to prevent against gum disease and other oral health issues.
- Clean your tongue regularly. In many cases much of the odor-causing bacteria in your mouth resides on your tongue, which is why cleaning your tongue regularly can help improve your breath markedly.
- Maintain a healthy diet. Limiting your sugar intake and eating plenty of foods that encourage saliva production can help to reduce instances of bad breath. Consider eating plenty of whole grains, dark green vegetables, a variety of fruits and proteins like fish, beans, nuts and seeds.
- Use a mouthrinse after meals. Mouthrinses can help fight plaque and freshen breath, and are most effective when used in addition to brushing and flossing.
Of course, you can always speak to your dentist about how to improve your breath. Fresh breath is not only pleasant for you and others around you, it is a sign that you enjoy good oral health. It also allows for comfort and a degree of confidence that is always desirable.