Top Causes of Bad Breath

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  • Bad breath, also called halitosis, is a common malady for many people. It can negatively affect interpersonal interactions as well as self-esteem. Fortunately, it can be treated effectively, and usually easily, at home. The cause of the odor simply needs to be identified first.

    Some forms of bad breath are caused by the foods we eat. There is an initial scent that lingers, such as garlic or onions, that isn't truly "bad" breath. Rather, this is just the odor of the food most recently ingested. Other foods actually contain compounds that alter the way the air leaving our lungs smells. This form of bad breath is unpleasant, but there is nothing to be done to solve it, short of not eating those foods any more. The odor can be mitigated by using breath mints.

    Most other bad breath is caused by bacteria of the mouth. This bacteria can in several spots, some easier to reach than other, throughout the mouth. When the bacteria excrete waste from what they have ingested, they leave behind certain compounds that result in foul odors. The majority of these compounds are sulfur based, which is why people often relate the taste in their mouth to the smell of rotten eggs or the "bottom of a bird feeder". Other scents that are considered unpleasant are also sulfur based.

    Sufferers usually wonder how to get rid of bad breath. If the odor is bacteria born, the only way to effectively end it is to kill the bacteria. Good oral hygiene, beyond simply teeth brushing, involves a thorough cleaning of all areas of the mouth. This requires daily flossing and tongue cleaning. If bad breath is a persistent, troublesome issue, a special dentist-prescribed mouth rinse may be necessary.

    One of the most important factors in bad breath prevention is not giving bacteria a hospitable environment to grow in. Saliva is a key factor in killing bacteria within the mouth; if the mouth becomes dry, or short on saliva, bacteria aren't effectively removed. Individuals who frequently complain of a dry or "cotton" mouth also often report bad breath or a foul taste. Dry mouth can be caused by dehydration, extended speaking or smoking.

    Bacteria also grow well in an unhealthy oral environment. Gum disease, or gingivitis, as well as periodontal disease both cause a breakdown of the gums and tissues surrounding teeth. This gives bacteria a well protected place to breed, far from reach of a toothbrush or dental floss.

    Not only that, it can cause bad breath in and of itself. The bacteria that break down the gums and tissues to cause the disease release the same waste materials as other oral bacteria. The initial cause of bad breath, an overabundance of oral bacteria, can often lead to secondary bad breath, caused by gum or periodontal disease. Thorough oral hygiene is the most effective ways to get rid of and prevent bad breath.