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Bad Breath Causes and Treatment

Bad breathMost of us are mortified to think we may have bad breath, but it is a common problem that afflicts everyone at some stage or another. Unfortunately, it can be very tricky to tell if you have bad breath, and it’s an issue that can cause social anxiety.

A plethora of products promise to fix bad breath, including breath mints, chewing gum, and mouthwash, but these most likely only mask the underlying problem and will not treat the cause.

What Can Cause Bad Breath?

Numerous factors can cause bad breath, and some of the most common include:

Specific Foods

Strongly flavored food might be tasty, but its presence can be felt for days afterward. The same ingredients that make food taste good can leave a lingering odor and include:

  • garlic
  • onions
  • strong spices
  • fish
  • coffee
  • curry

When food causes bad breath, you can do nothing but wait it out until the food has passed through your system. In the meantime, to help mask the odor, you can:

  • brushing your teeth
  • flossing regularly
  • using mouthwash or chewing sugar-free gum frequently.

Tobacco Products

Tobacco is a well-known cause of bad odors, and it’s easy to spot a smoker by their breath. All tobacco products can cause bad breath and a range of much more serious dental problems. People who use tobacco products are more likely to have:

  • gum disease
  • yellowing teeth
  • more at risk of oral cancer

Dietary Choices

Special diets are highly popular these days and promise to help dieters drop the pounds more quickly, but they can affect your breath. For example, keto, where people eat a high protein diet with fewer carbohydrates, can change your metabolism as protein takes longer for the body to digest.

People following a keto diet will often have ‘keto breath’ where their breath has a strong chemical odor similar to nail varnish remover. The problem will most likely persist until a more balanced diet is followed, containing fruits and vegetables.

If you have a diet high in sugars, you are also more likely to have bad breath or halitosis because the sugars feed bacteria found naturally in your mouth. As these bacteria feed and thrive, they can create noxious odors.

Dry Mouth

You probably take it for granted that you can chew and swallow food comfortably and that your mouth remains moist and fresh constantly. This is because you produce plenty of saliva but now imagine what it must be like for people who cannot produce enough saliva. When this occurs, and your mouth is dry, it can cause halitosis.

Dry mouth or xerostomia can be a side-effect of certain medications or due to medical conditions. Sometimes it’s the side-effect of medical treatment, especially radiotherapy or chemotherapy for head and neck cancers.

Medical Issues

Sometimes halitosis can signify a medical problem that might not even be diagnosed just yet. It can be a sign of:

  • respiratory infections
  • sinus problems
  • kidney or liver issues
  • diabetes
  • postnasal drip
  • blood disorders

Poor Dental Health

While all or any of the above are possible, the most common cause of bad breath is a lack of oral care.

Although most people know they need to brush their teeth twice a day and floss once a day, not everyone sticks to this simple, quick oral care routine.

When you fail to clean your teeth regularly, a sticky biofilm called dental plaque quickly builds up over tooth surfaces. It begins to build up just minutes after you clean your teeth and contains harmful bacteria that thrive on leftover food particles trapped on and between your teeth.

These bacteria can create unpleasant odors, and food particles that remain in your mouth will slowly begin to rot, which can smell very unpleasant. If poor oral hygiene continues, it can cause many other dental problems, including:

  • tooth decay
  • gum disease
  • the risk of tooth loss
  • dental pain and discomfort

Diagnosing and Treating Bad Breath

Are you concerned you may have bad breath? Make an appointment to see your dentist, Dr. Eric Gibbs as soon as possible and talk to him about your concerns. He can assess your breath to determine if it is less than fresh and diagnose the cause.

Dr. Eric Gibbs will carefully examine your teeth and gums for any signs of dental disease and will check your dental health generally. He will also ask you about your medical history, so go prepared with a list of any medications you use. Tell about any existing medical conditions as these could affect your breath. Dr. Eric Gibbs can also arrange to clean your teeth professionally, a very important treatment that will automatically help to freshen your breath by removing hardened plaque, a substance called calculus.

While your teeth are cleaned, the hygienist can assess your oral care and, if necessary, can talk to you about ways to improve it. They can show you better ways to brush your teeth thoroughly, using the proper tools and techniques, and can also show you how to floss properly. People may regularly brush their teeth, but neglect to floss, and dental professionals can always tell who flosses daily and who doesn’t!

After assessing your oral health and cleaning your teeth, Dr. Eric Gibbs can talk to you about the best way to freshen your breath. If you have any dental problems, they can devise a suitable treatment plan to correct these issues.

If you have dry mouth, Dr. Eric Gibbs can discuss the best way to manage this, for example, by using a saliva substitute. He can also suggest other ways to help keep your mouth moist such as sipping water frequently or sucking on ice chips, and avoiding foods and beverages that can dry your mouth, for example, coffee and alcohol.

If Dr. Eric Gibbs suspects your medications may be causing or contributing to the problem, he will recommend you visit your healthcare provider. He may also suggest you see your doctor if they cannot find any reason for your bad breath, just in case you have an undiagnosed medical problem.


For more information, visit Gibbs Orthodontics Associates to speak with a team of the best and most regarded orthodontists in New York City about diagnosing and treating bad breath.


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