Bad breath, also called halitosis, can be embarrassing and in some cases may even cause anxiety.
It’s no wonder that store shelves are overflowing with gum, mints, mouthwashes and other products designed to fight bad breath. But many of these products are.
Certain foods, health conditions and habits are among the causes of bad breath. In many cases, you can improve bad breath with consistent proper dental hygiene. If simple self-care techniques don’t solve the problem, see your dentist or physician to be sure a more serious condition isn’t causing your bad breath.
Bad breath odors vary, depending on the source or the underlying cause. Some people worry too much about their breath even though they have little or no mouth odor, while others have bad breath and don’t know it. Because it’s difficult to assess how your own breath smells, ask a close friend or relative to confirm your bad-breath questions.
Most bad breath starts in your mouth, and there are many possible causes. They include:
Food. The breakdown of food particles in and around your teeth can increase bacteria and cause a foul odor. Eating certain foods, such as onions, garlic, and other vegetables and spices, also can cause bad breath. After you digest these foods, they enter your bloodstream, are carried to your lungs and affect your breath.
Poor dental hygiene. If you don’t brush and floss daily, food particles remain in your mouth, causing bad breath. A colorless, sticky film of bacteria (plaque) forms on your teeth and if not brushed away, plaque can irritate your gums (gingivitis) and eventually form plaque-filled pockets between your teeth and gums (periodontitis). The uneven surface of the tongue also can trap bacteria that produce odors. And dentures that aren’t cleaned regularly or don’t fit properly can harbor odor-causing bacteria and food particles.Dry mouth. Saliva helps cleanse your mouth, removing particles that may cause bad odors. A condition called dry mouth — also known as xerostomia (zeer-o-STOE-me-ah) — can contribute to bad breath because production of saliva is decreased. Dry mouth naturally occurs during sleep, leading to “morning breath,” and is made worse if you sleep with your mouth open. Some medications can lead to a chronic dry mouth, as can a problem with your salivary glands and some diseases.
Infections in your mouth. Bad breath can be caused by surgical wounds after oral surgery, such as tooth removal, or as a result of tooth decay, gum disease or mouth sores.
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