Banning Bad Breath
Bad breath is an embarrassing problem. If you have it, you want it gone, fast—but breath mints and mouthwashes are only a temporary fix. If bad breath keeps returning, consult with your dentist. Together, you can identify and treat the underlying cause.1
Here are the most common causes of bad breath—or halitosis, as dental experts call it.
The foods you are eating—or not eating.Onions and garlic are two common culprits of bad breath. Once you’ve eaten these strong-smelling foods, they are absorbed into the bloodstream, then transferred to the lungs, where you exhale out their fumes. Once your body eliminates those foods, the problem stops. If you’re following a low-carbohydrate, high-protein diet, your breath may also take on an unpleasant odor. With this type of diet, the body burns stored fat instead of carbohydrates, which produces chemicals called ketones. When ketones are released in the breath, halitosis can result.2
An unclean mouth. If not cleaned away, particles of food will stick between teeth and cling to the tongue and gums, attracting odor-causing bacteria. The food particles can also rot, which causes bad breath.1 The solution is to gently brush your teeth twice a day, paying special attention to the gum line. Also be sure to floss at least once a day. When brushing, clean your tongue, too. And see your dentist regularly for checkups and professional cleanings. If you wear dentures, clean them exactly as your dentist recommends.1
Periodontal (gum) disease. Bad breath can be a warning sign of gum disease, caused by bacteria in plaque—the sticky film that builds up on your teeth. If not cleaned away regularly, this plaque irritates and damages the gums. Regular dental checkups and good oral home care help keep gum disease at bay.1
Adry mouth. If you suffer from dry mouth (xerostomia), there is not enough saliva in your mouth to naturally clean away food particles. Certain medicines or breathing through your mouth can cause dry mouth. Ask your dentist for help managing dry mouth. You may be prescribed a remedy called artificial saliva to combat mouth dryness.1
Smoking or using smokeless tobacco. All tobacco products stain teeth, irritate gums, and give you bad breath. They can also lead to cancer—including oral cancer. For tips on quitting smoking or smokeless tobacco, talk with your dentist or doctor.1
A medical problem.An infection in your nose, throat, windpipe, or lungs; a stomach disturbance; kidney or liver problems, or even diabetes, can all be at the root of chronic bad breath. If your dentist can’t find the source of bad breath in your mouth, see your doctor for further evaluation and treatment.1
1 “Bad Breath (Halitosis).” Oral Health Topics, American Dental Association. www.ada.org/2941.aspx Accessed 2010.
2 “Does a Smaller Waist Mean Smelly Breath?”Academy of General Dentistry, February 2007. www.agd.org/public/oralhealth/Default.asp?IssID=306&Topic=H&ArtID=1253 Accessed 2010.
Online Medical Reviewer:
Godsey, Cynthia MS, MSN, APRN
Date Last Reviewed:
Date Last Modified:
The views represented by this article are that of the author and not of Delta Dental. This article is provided for information only. Please consult with a licensed dentist to discuss the best way for you to improve or maintain your oral health.
In all cases, specific group contract provisions, benefits, limitations and exclusions take precedence over oral health recommendations given here. We recommend that you contact your dental benefits carrier to determine the specific limitations and exclusions for your group.