It can be a side effect of any number of sources, but the point remains; bad breath happens. But what causes bad breath and how can you avoid it? We’re breaking down the roots and remedies of embarrassing bad breath, here.

Here’s a Fact: Before the 1920s, people just lived with bad breath. It wasn’t until Listerine created a marketing campaign using a dusty old Latin word – halitosis – that made people think they needed treatment. Bad breath went from a pesky, personal problem to an embarrassing social stigma.

What Causes Bad Breath?

Food. We’ve all heard that onions and garlic can leave us with stinky breath, but the stink here doesn’t come from food particles left behind. Both of these foods leave an oil that absorbs into the lungs and the smell is released with breathing, not speaking. Other offenders in this category include coffee and alcohol.

Tobacco. Smoking leaves its own unpleasant smell, but smokers and oral tobacco users are at a higher risk for gum disease, another leading cause of bad breath. Because smoking affects your sense of smell, you might not notice bad breath when it’s present.

Gum Disease. When the cavity-causing bacteria called plaque coats your teeth it can irritate your gums. If left alone, it can form sticky plaque-filled pockets below your gum line, trapping the odor.

Dry Mouth. Saliva plays an important role in your oral health by cleansing your mouth and removing bad breath causing particles. Ever been accused of morning breath? This is your culprit. Dry mouth naturally occurs during sleep and gets worse if you sleep with your mouth open.

Medications. There are more than 1,800 prescription medications that list dry mouth as a common side effect, but some medications cause bad breath when they’re broken down by the body, releasing chemicals carried out on your breath.

Nose and Throat. Occasionally, the bad breath source can come from small stones made by your tonsils that are mostly harmless but produce a strong odor. Infections or chronic inflammation in the nose, sinus or throat, can also contribute towards bad breath.

Medical Conditions. Despite brushing and flossing regularly, some medical conditions can cause unique, unpleasant mouth odors. Diabetes, liver or kidney disease, some cancers and gastric reflux each carry their own strange scent on the breath.

How Do I Know if My Breath Stinks?

Great question, not so easy answer. Because it’s difficult to assess how your own breath smells, most people consult a close friend, relative or partner. If that’s too embarrassing, give your dental floss a sniff after you finish flossing. How does it smell? It’s a pretty good indicator of how your breath is doing. Still on the fence? Consult your dentist.

How Can I Get Rid of Bad Breath?

The best thing you can do for your mouth, bad breath or not, is to brush your teeth twice a day for two minutes each. The reality is that most people brush for 30-45 seconds at a time and sometimes only once a day. Floss once a day as well, to keep your gums healthy and to get rid of stinky food particles hiding in your mouth. Add brushing after each meal to your regimen if bad breath persists.

There are a number of tools available to help cut down on bad breath, like a tongue scraper that takes away the layer of bacteria on your tongue. If you don’t have a tongue scraper, you can always use your toothbrush. And speaking of toothbrushes, make sure to replace yours every three months or 48 hours after being sick.

 

Avoid dry mouth by staying hydrated with water and limiting your consumption of coffee, soda and alcohol. Chewing sugar-free gum or sucking on hard candies can help promote saliva to help clean your mouth. If your dry mouth persists, your dentist may recommend an artificial saliva to help with hydration.

Mouthwash can help kill bacteria and neutralize bad breath odors, but it’s only a temporary solution. The longer you wait to brush and floss, the more stinky food particles stay in your mouth.

If you’ve tried all of these tips and still find yourself with bad breath, it’s probably time to schedule an appointment with your primary care physician to see if an underlying medical problem is contributing to the stink.

Remember, your mouth is a good indicator of the health in the rest of your body, so take good care of it, and it’ll take good care of you!