What Causes Bad Breath?

Bad breath is embarrassing, but thankfully avoidable. Here are a few causes and some ideas to keep your breath fresh. Chronic bad breath that isn't the result of pungent foods like garlic is called halitosis. If you have persistent bad breath that doesn't go away after brushing or using a mouthwash, you may have halitosis. We'll talk about the causes and some solutions to bad breath:


Dry Mouth - Saliva has the happy result of rinsing away leftover food. If your body doesn't make enough saliva — whether due to medications, age, or systemic conditions like Sjogren's syndrome — the dryness causes bad breath. Other habits such as regularly drinking alcohol or smoking can also contribute to dry mouth.

Food — Pungent foods can cause temporary bad breath. These include garlic, coffee, onions, and fish. If you're having leftover salmon for lunch at work, pack a toothbrush and do a quick brush after you eat.

Tooth Decay and Periodontal Disease - Oral bacteria of tooth cavities and gum disease release smelly compounds. Gum disease can have a rotten, bad breath smell. This bacteria cannot be brushed or flossed away since it is deep within teeth or below the gumline. In this situation, seeing Dr. Ewell and the dental hygienist will manage the problem.

Sinus Infections or Allergies — If you have postnasal drip due to an infection or allergies the bacteria feed on the mucus settling in your nose and throat, causing bad breath. Mucus trapped in your sinuses from a cold or sinus infection can breed bacteria, too.

Tonsil Stones — Tonsil stones are a common condition where food debris, post-nasal drip, and bacteria collects in the pits of the tonsils in the back of the throat and calcifies. These calcifications have an odor. Tonsil stones have a white or yellow appearance and can be seen in the back of the throat when you say "ahhhh." They are often dislodged on their own or can be removed by a professional.

Smoking — Smoking dries out the mouth and contributes to worse periodontal disease - two major causes in bad breath.


Thankfully, bad breath on its own can be relatively simple to treat. Be sure to maintain regular dental appointments with us (at least twice per year) and practice excellent oral hygiene at home. Try to brush your teeth for at least two minutes morning and night. Don't neglect to clean your tongue as well - using a tongue scraper will remove caked on food debris and bacteria. Finally, once daily flossing removed food between the teeth that your toothbrush wasn't able to reach. If you wear dentures, be sure to clean them regularly and leave them in a cleaning solution over night, allowing your gums and palate to "breathe" overnight. As we live in a very dry and hot climate, be sure to stay hydrated and drink enough water to help your body produce adequate saliva. During allergy season, using a nasal rinse can flush away trapped mucus and reduce smelly buildup. Sugar-free gum and hard candies and mouthwash can also help stimulate extra saliva and rinse away food debris. Reducing and eventually quitting tobacco products - including vaping - will not only give you better breath but will also improve your overall quality of life and help prevent heart disease, cancer, and other potentially deadly conditions. If you’ve tried the above precautions and still feel you have chronic bad breath, make an appointment to see Dr. Ewell or your physician. There may be a condition present that you cannot resolve at home. Dr. Ewell can determine if the cause of the bad breath is due to tooth decay, dental abscess, or periodontal disease. If there is no dental cause, your physician will want to rule out liver or kidney disease or diabetes. Together, we can find the cause and help make your breath fresh again.

Experience a Refreshing Approach to Dentistry

If you have any questions or are ready to schedule a visit with Dr. Allen Ewell and Dr. Elizabeth Ewell, your Surprise, Arizona dentists at Dentistry of Arizona, don't hesitate to reach out. Give us a call today or conveniently request an appointment online. We look forward to assisting you!
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