Bad breath, also called halitosis, is an embarrassing problem for many and can affect people of any age.
Bad breath can make your social life difficult, cause anxiety, and affect your confidence level and self-esteem.
The problem is often caused by a buildup of bacteria in your mouth that break down food particles, giving off noxious odors or gases that smell really bad. The malodor basically comes from volatile sulfur compounds in mouth air.
The bacteria buildup can be due to many reasons and there are many common offenders. Fortunately, once you understand these offenders, you can learn simple and effective ways to get rid of it.
Here are the top 10 worst offenders of bad breath.
1. Poor Dental Hygiene
Poor oral hygiene is the most common offender of bad breath.
If you don’t brush and floss daily, food particles remain in your mouth. With time, it causes a colorless, sticky film of bacteria (plaque) to form on your teeth.
If not brushed away, the bacteria start producing odors. In fact, maintaining good oral health is essential to reducing bad breath, so be sure to brush your teeth twice daily, floss between your teeth at least once daily and scrape your tongue daily.
2. Trapped Food
Food ‘trapped’ in your mouth, especially between your teeth, is another common cause of stinky breath.
After a meal, any food particles that remain between your teeth, in your gums or on your tongue can release their odor into your breath. The smell can get worse as that food decays.
If the food particles remain for a longer time, they promote bacterial growth, eventually leading to gum disease.
People who smoke a lot often suffer from a particular type of oral odor known as smoker’s breath.
When you smoke cigarettes, it leaves smoke particles in the throat and lungs that cause the odor. In fact, the smell of a freshly smoked cigarette can linger in the lungs for several hours.
Another reason why smoking causes bad breath is that it dries out your mouth. Smoking reduces saliva production, which in turn allows the growth of certain types of bacteria in your mouth that cause bad breath.
A 2010 study published in the Journal of Dental Research, Dental Clinics, Dental Prospects indicates that long-term smoking would significantly reduce salivary flow rate and increase oral and dental disorders associated with dry mouth, especially cervical caries, gingivitis, tooth mobility, calculus and halitosis.
Any kind of alcoholic beverages – be it beer, wine or cocktails –can surely make your breath smell bad due to its lingering smell.
In addition, being diuretic in nature, alcoholic drinks cause dry mouth. This leads to a reduction in saliva production, which in turn leads to the growth of odor-causing bacteria.
Alcohol intake is also associated with heartburn and acid reflux, which in turn adds to bad breath.
Plus, excessive alcohol consumption can lead to repeated vomiting, which gives you foul-smelling breath.
5. Eating Pungent Foods
Certain foods can make your breath stink quite badly. Garlic and onions are among the top offenders.
Both garlic and onions can leave their sulfuric mark on more than just your tongue.
When the sulfurous compounds are digested, they reach the lungs via the bloodstream and cause a foul onion or garlic breath when you exhale.
Also, their byproducts can enter your bloodstream and the smell can last for hours.
Along with garlic and onions, asparagus, certain fish and cruciferous vegetables can also make your breath stink.
If you notice that your breath seems stale after drinking a cup of warm coffee, it could be the result of your favorite beverage.
The caffeine in coffee causes dry mouth by slowing saliva production. A lack of saliva allows bacteria to thrive inside your mouth, one of the key reasons behind bad breath.
Less saliva can make it difficult to wash away and digest particles of food sticking to the tongue or teeth, which can promote tooth decay.
Additionally, loading up a cup of coffee with cream, milk or even artificially flavored non-dairy creamer has the additional disadvantage of smelling acrid, and it also encourages bacterial growth.
You can swap your regular coffee for green to help beat bad breath. Green tea is rich in antioxidants that have antimicrobial and deodorant effects that help maintain oral health.
7. Dental Problems
Many times, bad breath is due to certain dental problems.
Persistent bad breath or a bad taste in the mouth may be a warning sign of a dental issue, such as an abscessed tooth, gum disease, cavities or bad oral hygiene. In fact, unbearable breath may be the first symptom of such problems.
Most of these dental issues are caused by odor-producing bacteria that affect your teeth and gums.
Along with oral health problems, bad breath can also be caused by poorly fitting dental appliances, such as dentures.
8. Digestive Problems
Several digestive problems can cause bad breath.
The common problem of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) can cause stinky breath. This condition is caused by stomach acid coming back up the esophagus, causing a burning sensation in the chest or throat. When the acids come into the mouth, it causes bad breath.
Stomach ulcers can also cause bad breath. A 2008 study published in the Journal of Medical Microbiology reports that bacteria that cause stomach ulcers and cancer could also cause bad breath.
Milk and other dairy products are good for your health, especially your bones, but they are another offender of bad breath.
The amino acids in milk are great food for naturally occurring bacteria in your mouth and, in particular, on the tongue. A growth in bacteria means there’s an excess of hydrogen sulfide in the mouth, which makes for a very foul, sour smell on the breath.
This is one reason why babies often have very pronounced milk breath.
At the same time, lactose intolerance may cause halitosis. However, this is just an assumption made by medical experts.
10. Throat and Sinus Infections
If you’ve had a bad cold or sinusitis recently, your breath could suffer. In fact, throat and sinus infections are among the leading causes of bad breath.
Sinus infections due to the presence of bacteria in your nose and sinus cavities may give off noxious odors.
Along with a sore throat, swollen tonsils or phlegm and discharge from the throat or sinuses, other health problems that can contribute to a foul smell in your mouth include diabetes, liver or kidney problems.
Tips to fight bad breath
- Water flushes bits of food and bacteria out of the mouth and promotes saliva production. So, try to drink water at regular intervals.
- Chew sugarless gum for at least 5 minutes after meals to foster saliva production.
- Snack on foods rich in vitamin C to create an inhospitable environment for oral bacteria.
- Maintain oral hygiene by brushing your teeth and flossing twice daily. Also, make sure to scrape your tongue.
- Use a mouthwash that kills the bacteria that make your breath smell unpleasant.
- Replace your toothbrush at least every three months.
- Visit your dentist regularly, as often as they recommend.