5 Common Causes of Bad Breath—and How to Make It Minty Fresh
Toilet paper stuck to your shoe. Spinach stuck to your teeth. An open fly. Those are all pretty embarrassing instances. Few things, however, are as embarrassing as bad breath. Even if you have a perfectly minty-fresh smile and can exaggerate the letters “h” and “o” with confidence, trying to tell someone else that they have bad breath can be even more awkward.
Awkward as it might be, however, identifying the cause of bad breath is the first step towards a smile that doesn’t make flowers wilt and woodland creatures scurry away. Trying to find the source of bad breath, however, isn’t so simple—even the bacteria in your gastrointestinal tract can contribute to bad breath. And avoiding awkward social situations could be the least of your concerns. Halitosis—the medical term for bad breath—could be an indication of periodontal disease or a more severe health condition.
Overall Oral Health
Minty fresh breath begins and ends with good dental and oral hygiene habits. It might sound like tired advice but brushing your teeth and flossing twice daily—once in the morning and once before bedtime—is the dentist-recommended strategy for a healthy mouth and happy smile.
Overnight, even if we did brush and floss before we crawled into bed, odour-causing bacteria grow and multiply within our mouths. Those bad bacteria thrive on food particles leftover in our mouth. Brushing and flossing before getting into bed deprive those bacteria of most of the fuel they need to create noxious breath odours. Our morning dental care routine provides us with the opportunity to once again keep those bacteria at bay—unless, of course, you enjoy the thought of tiny bacteria eating your breakfast for you.
The American Dental Association provides a great “how-to-guide” on the proper brushing technique to maintain great oral health.
Strongly Flavoured Foods and Drinks
There’s a reason that Dracula is afraid of garlic… bad breath! Turns out, the Prince of Darkness is just trying to maintain his minty fresh—albeit a little macabre—smile.
Certain foods such as garlic, onions, and certain spices carry chemicals that can cause halitosis. Unfortunately, combating bad breath caused by garlic bread and French onion soup isn’t as simple as rinsing your mouth out with mouthwash. The odour-causing chemicals from these foods enter your bloodstream and find their way into your lungs.
Now, before you try to rinse out your lungs with holy water, there are easier ways to ward off Count Dracula and combat bad breath caused by food. One could always avoid eating those foods but no one wants fresh breath badly enough to give up garlic butter. Instead, try to drink plenty of water when you eat odour-causing foods as it can reduce the concentration of the odour causing chemicals in your bloodstream.
Our saliva plays a huge role in keeping our mouths clean and healthy. Saliva remineralizes our teeth and helps to protect our gums by washing away food particles and odour causing bacteria. It’s also, mostly, water.
Odour causing bacteria thrive in a dry mouth where there isn’t sufficient mineral-rich saliva to wash them away and deprive them of their fuel source, i.e., food particles. Drink plenty of water to keep your mouth moist and to drown out odour causing bacteria. Knowing exactly how much water you need to maintain good oral hygiene and overall health, however, isn’t a simple science. Fortunately, there are some basic hydration rules you can follow.
If maintaining proper hydration isn’t helping you in your fight against halitosis, it may be an indication that you have a salivary gland disorder such as sialadenitis. Consult with your dentist or doctor.
Smoking & Tobacco Products
Health Canada has strict requirements for the labelling of tobacco products sold within the country. Most of the health warning labels pertain to the carcinogenic effects of cigarettes and related products. But did you know that smoking cigarettes or consuming other tobacco products can cause other health problems such as bad breath?
Nicotine and many of the other compounds in the average cigarette cause your mouth to dry out. And, as we now know, a dry mouth encourages the growth of odour causing bacteria. Additionally, smoking greatly increases your chances of developing gum disease and oral cancers which, in turn, can make already bad breath totally unbearable.
The best strategy for combating breath odours caused by tobacco products is to kick the habit. Of course, for millions of Canadians, that’s easier said than done. If you’re having difficulty quitting tobacco products and are fed up with not having your freshest smile, talk to your doctor about developing a strategy for quitting. Your smile—and anyone within smelling distance—will thank you.
Gastrointestinal Tract Infections
In a weird kind of way, our body is just one big—and very terribly complex—organic plumbing system. If our mouth is like the sink and our gastrointestinal tract is like the pipes, then it stands to reason that odours originating in our pipes can affect the smell emanating from our sinks.
That’s exactly what a group of researchers in a 2010 study found to be true. They discovered that a majority of patients suffering from halitosis that did not originate from an oral or dental source had gastrointestinal or stomach infections.
Needless to say, that’s about where the analogy ends. We definitely do not recommend—in fact, we strongly advise against—trying to treat your bad breath with a drain cleaner. What works for your kitchen’s pipes will almost certainly not work for you.
We do, however, strongly recommend contacting your doctor if you are exhibiting signs of a gastrointestinal tract infection or disorder such as nausea, vomiting, dehydration, unexplained weight loss, or irregular bowel movements.
Talk to Your Dentist About Getting Minty Fresh Breath
There are many potential causes of bad breath. If you’re still struggling to get a smile that is as welcoming as you are, talk to your dentist. Book your next appointment with Dawson Dental today—and for those who are still too shy about their bad breath, we offer virtual consultations.