Everyone has bad breath from time to time, especially in the morning. This can happen when you’re hungry, when you are fasting or after ingesting a type of food with a strong odor such as garlic, onions or pastrami.
Bad Breath Causes
There can be many causes for bad breath. A major cause is the decrease of salivary secretion. Saliva has a cleaning action that helps reduce or eliminate bad breath. When saliva levels decrease, bacteria can grow, causing bad breath.
The main health problems associated with bad breath are:
- Periodontal (gum) disease. Periodontal disease is caused by plaque buildup on the teeth. Bacteria found in the transparent and sticky substance can irritate the gums. If not treated on time, periodontal disease can destroy gum tissue and bone structure supporting the teeth.
- Oral trush
- Dental decay
- Xerostomia (dry mouth). Saliva is necessary to clean your mouth of food from debris, eliminate dead cells from the tongue, gums and cheeks, and neutralize acids in the mouth. If these cells are not removed, they decompose inside the mouth, causing bad breath.
- Side effects of certain drugs.
- Salivary glands disorders.
- Some diseases and conditions such as severe respiratory tract infections (pneumonia or bronchitis), chronic sinus infection, diabetes, chronic esophageal reflux disease.
Bad breath cause by decreased salivary secretion can be detected in particular:
- In the morning: saliva flow almost stops during sleep. Thus, bacteria can multiply and cause bad breath;
- When you’re hungry: Bad breath is more common in people who skip meals or are dieting. Chewing increases the amount of mouth saliva. When you’re not eating, mouth saliva production decreases and bacteria growth increases, causing bad breath;
- When you are dehydrated: when dehydrated, saliva production decreases. The cleansing action of saliva is thus diminished;
- Disease that affects the salivary glands, such as Sjogren’s syndrome or scleroderma, can also cause bad breath;
- A decrease in saliva levels cause by certain medications;
- After drinking;
Other causes of causing bad breath include:
- Eating foods with a strong odor such as garlic, onions, or pastrami;
- Smoking, chewing or sniffing tobacco;
- Plaque and tartar that forms from food left between the teeth or dentures.
Mouth and throat problems that can cause bad breath include:
- Strep throat or other mouth or throat infections;
- Cavities and other dental problems;
- Gum diseases such as periodontitis, which can give a metallic breath odor;
- Tonsils with deep crypts, where particles of food can get stuck;
- Cancers of the mouth or throat.
Problems in other areas of the body that can cause bad breath include:
- Nose problems such as a sinus infection, nasal polyps or the presence of a foreign body in the nasal cavity;
- Diabetes; a symptom of high blood sugar is a strong odor, fruity (similar to the odor of acetone) breath;
- Digestive system problems such as gastroesophageal reflux disease, bowel problems or cancer;
- HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus);
- Liver disease;
- Lung problems such as an infection or cancer.
Treatment and prevention
To help you have a more pleasant breath:
- Gargle with mouthwash;
- Brush your teeth, tongue, palate and gums at least twice a day with toothpaste;
- Floss at least once a day;
- Adopt a diet low in fat and rich in fruits and vegetables;
- Eat less meat;
- Do not smoke or use other tobacco products such as snuff or chewing tobacco;
- Avoid food and drinks that cause bad breath such as garlic and alcohol;
- Eat at regular intervals. Dieting or missing meals can decrease saliva and cause bad breath;
- Chew sugarless gum, suck sugarless mint candy, drink water, especially if you have a dry mouth;
- Try mint bars that contain ingredients also found in mouthwash and that dissolve in your mouth;
- Remove mobile dentures, partial dentures or braces and wash them once a day or as directed by your dentist. Bacteria and food parts can collect on them, causing bad breath;
- Use mouthwash in order to temporarily remove bad breath. Rinse for about 30 seconds before spitting it out;
- Make regular dental checks;
- Make an appointment with a specialist in Otolaryngology (investigates the ear, nose and throat) if you have frequent problems with bad breath.