Common Causes of Bad Breath

  • Apr 30 2019

Can persistent bad breath be successfully treated with a dental cleaning?

Social interaction often feels like a minefield, fraught with a wide range of potentially embarrassing possibilities. Are we appropriately dressed for the occasion? Is everyone noticing the extra weight that stubbornly defies all efforts to make go away? Or, the sheer panic we feel when it dawns on us that the reason people are keeping their distance is because we have bad breath!

Bad breath, technically halitosis, is certainly not a new problem. Century-old reports have been found that document the Chinese using pigs’ hair to clean their teeth. Ancient Babylonians tried twigs, and the Egyptians even came up with a breath freshener that combined various herbs and spices with honey. It is possible that these methods were somewhat successful, although rinsing with honey very often could not have been all that good for cavity prevention.  

Today, we have far better options for dental hygiene, but the results may not be all that different from those used in the past. Bad breath may be caused by our behavior, and, human nature being what it is, behavioral changes are frequently resisted. When bad breath is persistent and not merely occasional, it is considered chronic, and the underlying cause may be something more serious. Unfortunately, while regular dental cleanings are important for a number of reasons, they are unlikely to be the answer to getting rid of the problem of bad breath, no matter what its cause.

Common Causes of Bad Breath

Occasional Bad Breath

Bad breath that shows up once in a while is generally caused by something we sometimes do, like eating particular kinds of food, sleeping with the mouth open due to a cold or following a diet that puts the body into a state of ketosis. As long as the bad breath can be tied to something we do occasionally, then the answer is to avoid that behavior or carry breath mints and get home to a toothbrush as soon as possible. Some of the foods that tend to create bad breath include:

  • garlic
  • onions
  • fish
  • cheese
  • spices
  • alcohol

Chronic Bad Breath

When bad breath becomes a persistent problem and cannot be attributed to the garlic bread you had to have with lunch, then it becomes something that cannot simply be masked or brushed away. There is a wide range of conditions and behaviors that can lead to chronic bad breath. Some of the most common are:

  • Gum disease — gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, is often a cause of persistent bad breath due to the ongoing infection in the gums. Professional dental cleaning may not be able to cure bad breath but it can certainly go a long way in preventing gum disease.  
  • Tobacco — to all of the other reasons for avoiding smoking and tobacco use of any kind can be added the likelihood of it causing bad breath.
  • Dentures — when dentures are not adequately maintained and cleaned they become a target for bacterial growth and the unpleasant odor that goes with it.
  • Drugs and medications — the body sometimes reacts to certain medications in a way that produces an odor or may cause dryness in the mouth, another cause of persistent bad breath.
  • Dry mouth from disease or glandular conditions — often a cause of bad breath.
  • Other medical conditions — sometimes bad breath can be a clue that indicates the presence of conditions like diabetes, liver disease, acid reflux, kidney disease, types of metabolic disorders, sinus infections and even cancer.

When issues with bad breath are persistent, it is important to make an appointment with your dentist and not simply ignore or try to cover it up.

The skilled dentists at Associated Dentists of Northwest Indiana offer a full-service dental practice specializing in general dentistry, cosmetic dentistry, orthodontics and periodontics at our two locations in Merrillville and Munster, IN. If you have questions about bad breath or any other dental issue, please use our convenient online contact form by clicking here.

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