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Top 10 Causes of Bad Breath

September 18, 2023
Top 10 Causes of Bad Breath

Bad breath, or halitosis, is a common condition affecting 30-50% of Americans. Bad breath can have a negative impact on your life, both personally and professionally. Most people who have bad breath are not even aware of it. 

You may think that bad breath only comes from eating certain foods, such as onions and garlic. But chronic bad breath can come from a variety of causes. Here are the Top 10 causes of bad breath. 

  1. Gum Disease

Gum disease is a bacterial infection of the gums caused by plaque on the teeth. The same type of plaque that causes tooth decay can also infect the gum tissue. The bacteria that causes gum disease can also cause bad breath by releasing volatile sulfa compounds associated with breath odor. 

  1. Dry Mouth 

A lack of saliva production is characterized as a condition called dry mouth. When there is not enough saliva in the mouth to wash away the food particles, an increase in bacteria occurs that causes bad breath. Saliva also has antibacterial properties that eliminate breath odor.

  1. Digestive Issues 

In some cases bad breath comes from a source outside the mouth. Digestive problems such as acid reflux (GERD), irritable bowel disease (IBD), small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), digestive inflammation, and other related issues can cause bad breath. 

  1. Medication 

Dry mouth can be caused by certain medications. Antihistamines, decongestants, antidepressants, muscle relaxers, and many other medications can lead to dry mouth and cause bad breath. 

  1. Smoking 

The smell of cigarette smoke on your breath can be an unpleasant odor. Smoke can get into your oral tissue and stay there causing bad breath. Not only that, but smoking causes dry mouth, which is another cause of bad breath. 

  1. Chronic Health Conditions 

Many long term or chronic health conditions can be the cause of bad breath. Diabetes, autoimmune disorders, cancer, Sjögren’s syndrome, heart disease, and immunocompromised conditions can all contribute to bad breath. 

  1. Tooth Decay 

Tooth decay is caused by plaque, which contains bacteria that eat away your tooth enamel. As bacteria breaks down the tooth material, the waste left behind has an odor that affects your breath.

  1. Dentures, bridges, braces

If you wear dentures or have dental prosthetics such as crowns or bridges, these can be a source of bad breath. When bacteria builds up on or under dental prosthetics, it can cause an unpleasant odor. If you have braces, retainers, clear aligners, or other orthodontic appliances, these can be a source of bad breath. As is the case with dental prosthetics, bacteria buildup is the culprit. 

  1. Tonsil Stones

Tonsil stones are small lumps of hard material that form in the tonsils. Tonsil stones are yellowish or white and look like pebbles. Tonsil stones can cause bad breath though they’re usually not painful or harmful. They’re also called tonsilliths.

  1. Nasal problems or sinus infections

Bacteria buildup in the sinuses can cause a sinus infection to develop. As the sinuses drain into the throat it can cause bad breath until the infection clears up. 

How is Bad Breath Treated? 

Treatment for bad breath depends on the source of the problem. If gum disease or tooth decay are the cause of bad breath then dental cavity treatment,  cleanings, antibiotic protocols, and mouth probiotics may be needed to eliminate bad breath. Taking extra care to clean dentures and removable orthodontic appliances can remove the bacteria that are causing bad odors. Fixed orthodontic appliances and braces may require special tools to clean them more effectively. Quitting smoking will also give you fresher breath. 

When it comes to conditions such as dry mouth, it depends on the cause. If your dry mouth is due to medications you are taking, it may help to change the type of medication you take with the approval of your doctor. There are ways to treat dry mouth, such as mouthwashes and medications. 

If the cause of your bad breath is a separate medical condition, tests to diagnose gut imbalance or sinus problems may be warranted. 

Who Should I See for Bad Breath Treatment?

If you have or think you may have bad breath, a periodontist may be able to help. Periodontists diagnose and treat conditions affecting the gums and other support structures for the teeth. Bad breath is often caused by gum disease that has gone untreated. Scott H. Froum, DDS, PC provides effective treatment for gum disease that can get the infection under control and eliminate your bad breath. 
Call 212-751-8530 or contact us today to learn more and schedule an appointment.

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