Halitosis, aka bad breath, is a very common problem. Colgate estimates that 60% of Americans will end up with chronic bad breath at some point in their life. Around half of the population has bad breath.
Why is bad breath called halitosis? Halitus is the Latin root for “breath,” while “osis” is a process. Together, it’s a process of the breath. It can also be referred to as “fetor oris,” which is Latin for offensive and mouth. Bad breath can indicate many different situations, and it’s important to address them. Knowing the causes of bad breath is an important first step to proper oral and physical health.
The Common Causes of Bad Breath
Bad breath can be triggered externally or internally. Treatments depend on the cause.
External reasons are one of the easiest to manage, and they’re not always avoidable. A person who eats a lot of raw onions, garlic, or something spicy like pepperoni may have bad breath for a while. Brushing your teeth can help, but it may take a day for something like garlic to diminish completely.
Smoking and drinking alcoholic beverages are other external causes of bad breath. If you do smoke, it’s important to stop. Talk to your doctor about products that help ease the nicotine cravings. A support group can help you quit the habit. And, it’s imperative that you quit as smoking increases your odds of oral cancer, stroke, gum disease, heart disease, and lung cancer.
Chewing gum between meals, especially gum containing xylitol, helps tone down bad breath caused by the food you eat and things you ingest. Plus, xylitol helps with oral hygiene. It’s a sugar alcohol derived from plants like a birch tree. Just make sure you don’t leave products containing xylitol anywhere your dog can get it. Xylitol is safe for people, but it’s toxic to dogs and causes low blood sugar and liver damage.
What about the internal causes of bad breath? Your tongue is covered in small taste buds, and the hiding spots they create make it easy for bacteria to thrive. Oral bacteria often produce volatile sulfur compounds (VSCs) that stink. Several different problems can make your breath smell with the help of those VSCs.
Diabetes and Blood Sugar Changes
Does your breath smell like nail polish remover? If so, it’s a key indicator of diabetes. You need to go see your doctor. If you’ve had a fever or are on a restrictive diet and haven’t been eating much, you’ll also get that bad breath odor that’s similar to nail polish remover.
Oral Hygiene Issues
Gum disease, periodontal disease, cavities, and poor oral hygiene can lead to bad breath. If cavities get deep enough or pockets form with gum disease that leads to infections, infections can lead to horrible smells. Any pus build-up can smell as bad as aging manure. It’s not fun for you or those around you.
If you have bad breath and haven’t been to see your dentist lately, you’re overdue and need to get a cleaning and check-up ASAP. You don’t want to wait until an infection reaches your bloodstream and spreads to other areas.
If you have regular stomach or gut issues, your breath may begin to smell bad. People with conditions like IBS, bowel obstruction, celiac disease, or chronic heartburn often have acidic, foul-smelling breath.
As you get older, saliva production slows down. It also happens with smokers and when you take certain medications. If you have dry mouth, it can make your breath smell bad. Talk to your dentist about products that help ease dry mouth. There are kinds of toothpaste and mouthwash that may ease the issue.
Sinus and Throat Infections:
If you have a sinus infection or a throat infection like tonsillitis, your breath is going to smell. See your doctor to have it diagnosed and treated. You may be advised to rinse and gargle with salt water to help keep an infection from worsening. Follow that advice.
Kidney and Liver Failure:
When your kidneys and liver work properly, toxins are filtered out of your blood and end up in your urine where they’re flushed out of your body. If you have liver or kidney disease, toxins are not cleared out as effectively. The build-up of toxins will make your breath smell bad.
People describe liver failure’s bad breath as a combination of garlic, sugar, and rotten eggs. It’s caused by an increase of dimethyl sulfide being released in your breath. The smell of ammonia on the breath can indicate kidney failure.
What Can You Do to Stop It?
How often do you brush and floss? You should brush twice a day and floss at least once. When you brush your teeth, finish with a tongue brush or scraper to remove bacteria from your tongue. Make sure you use a fluoride toothpaste. If you know you have weak enamel, ask your dentist about the best products to strengthen tooth enamel and promote healthy gums.
Two keys to preventing bad breath are to see your doctor and dentist regularly. Don’t put off regular exams, as catching health issues in the very early stages is the best way to keep your health from worsening.
You should see your doctor once a year for a quick health exam. You may need to get vaccinations updated, more invasive tests to check for different types of cancer, or blood tests to check things like cholesterol, iron levels, and blood sugar levels. It’s important to have those tests as often as they’re recommended.
You should visit your Nashville dentist twice a year, or more often if you have gum disease or other underlying issues. If you’ve been told you would benefit from three or four cleanings and exams each year, see your dentist that often.
One of the leading reasons people don’t see their dentist is their fear of that appointment. If you’re letting dental fear keep you from your twice-yearly cleanings, Dr. Jody Jones can help. Nashville’s Jody Jones, DDS, has a full team experienced in establishing a stress-free appointment from start to finish.
Undue stress doesn’t have to keep you from seeing a dentist. We offer a pain-free sedation dentistry option where you get just enough medication to relax you without knocking you out. You’re fully awake and aware, but the stress and tension release, making it possible to sit through the exam and cleaning without fear or anxiety. Arrange a consultation or cleaning and exam online or by phone and ask about Dr. Jody Jones’ Nashville dental services for people with dental anxiety.