Everybody gets bad breath once in a while. That favorite Italian restaurant with the garlic bread can leave your breath smelling not-so-fresh. However, some people struggle with bad breath even if they don’t eat a pound of garlic for dinner.
Halitosis—often called bad breath—is the condition in which a person’s breath smells bad, unattractive, or alarming. Unfortunately, some people feel so embarrassed about the halitosis that they won’t talk to anyone about it—not even to their dentist.
Here’s the good news: lots of people have halitosis. In fact, nearly 50% of the population have bad breath on a regular basis. You’re not alone. Even better news: halitosis is easy to treat and even prevent. We’ll explain what causes halitosis and how to treat it
What Causes Halitosis?
Lots of things can cause halitosis. You may be suffering from one or more of them. Think of halitosis as a symptom of a problem. Once you know how you can get bad breath, you’ll know how to fix it. Here are some of the most common culprits:
- Oral Hygiene. About 90% of people with halitosis suffer from a problem within the mouth. Issues can include the following: 1) cavities; 2) gum disease; 3) cracked fillings; 4) poorly cleaned dentures; 5) poorly cleaned braces. The simplest preventative step is to see a dentist twice a year for a check-up and cleaning.
- Mouth, Nose and Throat Infections. According to the Mayo Clinic, nose, sinus and throat issues (like allergies) that can lead to postnasal drip may also lead to bad breath. Bacteria feeds on the mucus your body produces when it’s battling a sinus infection, leaving you sniffly and stinky.
- Garlic isn’t the only cause of halitosis. High-protein, low-carbohydrate diets can also cause it, as can eating too many sweet. Drinking too much coffee and alcohol may also contribute to halitosis.
- Medical conditions. Common maladies include diabetes (because of blood sugar levels); asthma; acid reflux. Less common causes can include lung disease; certain cancers; blood disorders; and kidney and liver disease.
- Dry mouth: Saliva rinses and removes leftover food from your mouth and helps break it down. If you don’t make enough saliva, one result may be halitosis. Your mouth gets dry when you sleep at night, which is why you may wake up with unpleasant “morning breath.”
- Smoking and tobacco. Tobacco products destroy your body as well as your breath. They leave their own odor behind, but they can also dry out your mouth (see above). Smokers are also more likely to develop gum disease, which is also another cause of bad breath.
How to Treat Halitosis
The good news is you can probably get rid of halitosis by taking a few proactive steps at home. Besides brushing your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, here are a few habits to decrease the likelihood of halitosis.
- Brush your tongue. Why? Because it’s the home of lots of bacteria. Clean it often with a tongue scraper and rinse with mouthwash afterward to kill the germs.
- Rinse with mouthwash. Your toothbrush can’t reach everywhere, so you need to use mouthwash. Swigging the minty fresh liquid around can kill the germs hiding in your mouth.
- Brush along the gumline. It’s easy to get lax with brushing your teeth. Make sure you brush along the gumline because that’s where the leftover food is, and left there long enough, it will grow bacteria. Bacteria = halitosis.
- Say goodbye to the bad habits. Cut back on the caffeine and tobacco, both of which can cause bad breath. The same goes for foods that cause bad breath. Increase your water intake.
- Chew sugar-free mint gum. Sugar-free is better for your teeth. Mint makes your breath smell fresher. And the gum stimulates your mouth to create more saliva.
If you don’t see an improvement with these at-home remedies, visit your dentist. With an exam and cleaning, they can rule out any hidden oral problems and work with you on finding adequate resources, which may include using different dental products or a visiting your primary care physician.
Don’t be afraid or embarrassed to talk with your dentist about halitosis. They’re the best resource for helping you find the right solutions.