Halitosis – or chronic bad breath – is something that mints, mouthwash or a good brushing can’t solve. Unlike “morning breath” or a strong smell that lingers after a tuna sandwich, halitosis remains for an extended amount of time and may be a sign of something more serious.
What Causes Halitosis?
If quick bad breath fixes are only covering up the problem for a short time, something else may be happening in your body, including:
Dental Issues: Cavities and deeper pockets from gum disease give bad breath bacteria extra places to hide in your mouth that are difficult to clear out when you’re brushing or cleaning between your teeth. Either can contribute to halitosis.
Mouth, Nose and Throat Infections: According to the Mayo Clinic, nose, sinus and throat issues that can lead to postnasal drip may also contribute to bad breath. Bacteria feeds on mucus your body produces when it’s battling something like a sinus infection, leaving you sniffly and stinky.
Dry mouth: Saliva goes a long way for your dental health – and your breath. It rinses and removes unwanted leftovers from your mouth, helps break down food when you eat and provides disease-fighting substances to help prevent cavities and infections. If you don’t make enough saliva, one sign may be halitosis. Dry mouth can be caused by medications, certain medical conditions, alcohol use, tobacco use or excessive caffeine.
Smoking and tobacco: Tobacco products wreak havoc on your body and your breath. Not only do many tobacco products leave their own odor on your breath; they can also dry out your mouth. Smokers are also more likely to develop gum disease, which can also add to halitosis.
Other chronic conditions: While halitosis is most often linked to something happening in your mouth, it may also be a sign of gastric reflux, diabetes, liver or kidney disease.
If you notice your breath has been less than fresh lately, start by following a healthy daily dental routine – brush twice a day for two minutes with a fluoride toothpaste and clean between your teeth once a day. Other things, like drinking plenty of water, chewing sugarless gum with the ADA Seal of Acceptance and cutting back on caffeine may also help get your saliva flowing and boost the freshness of your breath.
If you notice your bad breath persists, check in with your dentist. Together, you can track down what the cause may be. With a proper cleaning and exam, your dentist can help rule out any oral health problems and advise you on next steps, including what types of dental products to use, treatment plans to take care of cavities or gum disease or refer you to a medical provider to follow up.