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Bad breath. It’s one of our worst fears when trying to impress someone else. Since we’re usually the last to know when our previous meal is hanging around in not-so-enjoyable odorous ways or our poor oral health habits are becoming obvious, this problem isn’t easy to avoid.
Still, most causes of bad breath — officially called halitosis — can usually be prevented. If you start taking steps to better your breath and it doesn’t go away, you could have chronic halitosis, which stems from a more serious underlying condition elsewhere in your body.
Here, we’ll discuss the mystery of this condition, the causes of halitosis, and how you can stop living with the fear of unsavory breath in the future.
1. Poor Oral Hygiene
Although halitosis can happen to anyone and is found in more than 50% of the global population, most of us have bad breath because of poor oral hygiene.
If you know you don’t brush and floss as often as you should, or you frequently skip your regular dental checkups, this might be causing your bad breath.
When you don’t care for your teeth, the harmful bacteria in your mouth multiply. Given free rein, these microorganisms spread under your gums and into your enamel, decaying your teeth from the inside out.
They can get into your bloodstream and create havoc with your blood sugar levels and your cardiac health. In fact, long-term poor oral hygiene is linked to chronic conditions like diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
An easy fix is spending about five minutes daily making sure your brushing and flossing habits are up to par and attending that scheduled dental cleaning twice a year.
2. Tobacco Use
Are you a habitual tobacco user? Whether you prefer cigarettes, cigars, or another form of tobacco, the end results can all lead to halitosis.
Tobacco often dries your mouth out by reducing saliva production. Your salivary glands are a vital part of your overall oral health. Saliva washes out debris and bacteria that could lead to tooth decay and cause gum disease.
Since halitosis is one of the most common symptoms of chronic gum disease (periodontitis), your tobacco habit may very well be causing your bad breath. Along with bleeding gums, tobacco often brings tooth staining and decay, both of which contribute to your overall oral health. (You can read more about this in this article by JS Dental Lab.)
The sooner you quit your tobacco addiction, the more likely it is that you can regain your momentum of overall good health.
We mentioned this in passing already, but now we’ll delve into why chronic gum disease goes hand-in-hand with halitosis.
Lack of good oral hygiene regimens, genetics, and a poor diet can affect your gum health. If you catch it early enough while it’s in the stage called gingivitis, it’s fixable. This stage is recognizable because of symptoms like minor bleeding, inflammation, and sensitivity in the gums.
But if you ignore it long enough, gingivitis becomes periodontitis. At that point, it’s not reversible.
Gum disease is caused by a buildup of plaque. When that sticky film isn’t removed with regular brushing and flossing, it turns into periodontitis. This slowly damages gum tissue and causes tooth and jaw bone loss.
Aside from bleeding and inflamed gums, the main sign of periodontitis is halitosis. Once you reach this level of gum disease, you’ll need to work with your dentist to control the spread of infection.
4. Less Common Causes
In some cases, these main culprits aren’t the reason for your bad breath. What do you do then?
Chances are, if a better diet, skipping tobacco, and boosting your oral hygiene routine don’t help, there’s an underlying problem that you and your doctor will need to address.
Certain medications have “bad breath” as a side effect. Look at the fine print on your prescriptions and see if those are possibly causing your issue. In some cases, there might be a disease impacting your breath, such as:
- Oral or oropharyngeal cancer
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- Nose, throat, or lung infections
- Tonsil stones
- Liver or kidney disease
- Sjögren’s syndrome (an autoimmune disease)
Talk to your doctor if you think something going on in your body under the surface is causing your bad breath.
Regular bad breath can impact our mental and physical health. If you’ve tried to handle it alone and your halitosis isn’t going away, make an appointment with your dentist for a cleaning and checkup. It could be as simple as needing a good professional scrub for you to get your fresher breath back!