"Bad breath" is an unmistakable smell. If you have it, you probably can't stop thinking (and worrying) about it. Hundreds of mouthwashes, chewing gums, and even diets and supplements promise to banish your bad breath. Unfortunately, most products just mask the smell with potent mint. Let's look under the pearly hood at the various causes of bad breath.
First off, what is "bad breath?" Your mouth after an oniony sandwich is not "bad breath." Instead, if even after brushing your teeth your breath still smells, we consider that "bad breath."
If you're conscious about your breath, don't feel embarrassed! It's a super common occurrence with at least 30% of adults suffering from bad breath. What's important is to learn what might be causing your bad breath. Once you understand the root cause, you can use the right strategy to banish it, not just cover it up.
What causes bad breath, aka halitosis?
There are lots of causes of bad breath so before taking steps to fix it, it's best to identify the source. Sometimes bad breath originates in the mouth, other times it's caused by what you consume, and in some cases it has to do with health issues in other parts of your body.
Bad breath can start in the mouth, and tonsil stones smell too
Let's dive into some of the reasons why bad breath can start in your mouth.
- Bacteria. In most cases, odor-causing bacteria are the culprit for bad breath. We know what you're wondering and yes, those bacteria are farting in your mouth. But that's not all that's happening. According to Dr. Porter, professor of Oral Medicine, what's going on is "malodour [arises] from the mouth is the consequence of microbial putrefaction of food debris, cells, saliva, and blood." Translation … GROSS 🤢. Similar to how milk turns when it's past its prime, bacteria give off an odor when they break down. And bad breath can happen anytime because our mouths are naturally (and healthily) full of hundreds of types of bacteria that can cause bad breath. Your mouth, being warm and wet, acts like a greenhouse and allows those bacteria to thrive. Those bacteria feast on the leftover food in your mouth and their waste product (farts and such) leaves a smell behind.
- Acidic Microbiome. If your mouth has lots of the "smelly" bacteria, they release acid and make your microbiome acidic, causing bad breath.
- Dry Mouth. If your mouth isn't making enough saliva, it's not effectively washing bacteria out of your mouth and keeping your mouth clean. Dry mouth can be caused by medications, or if you sleep with your mouth open (snore). It's a big reason for the morning breath we hate waking up to.
- Gum Disease. If the bad breath is persistent and also leaves a bad taste in your mouth, it could be a sign of gum disease. This is caused by plaque bacteria which also cause cavities.
- Tonsil Stones. If you suffer from tonsil stones, you know how they can smell something awful. Those tiny stones are made from bacteria, dead cells, mucus, food, and saliva that get trapped in the tonsils, then calcify and emanate odor.
Bad breath that comes from what you consume
Sometimes, you are what you eat.
- Food & Drinks. Garlic and onions are not always the way to a romantic evening. Those odor-causing particles enter your bloodstream and are carried to the lungs where they affect the odor of your breath 😵. The good news is if your food or coffee is the cause, a good brush and rinse can help take care of that odor 🌹
- High Protein or High Sugar Diets. High-protein foods can be difficult for some bodies to digest, and those foods tend to release a sulfurous gas when we don't digest them properly. And if your diet is high in sugar, you can also suffer from bad breath because the sugars feed the bacteria in your mouth which then release those bacteria farts. Aka, keto breath.
- Smoking & Tobacco. Apart from making your mouth smell like an old bowling alley, these products also damage gum tissue and can lead to gum disease … see above☝️
Bad breath from stomach, ulcers, and other health issues
There are some health issues in other parts of your body that are known to contribute to bad breath. It's best to check with your doctor if something going on with your health is contributing to bad breath.
- GERD / Acid Reflux. If your stomach contents flow backward and upward, the undigested food and stomach acids will cause your breath to smell.
- Ulcers. There is conflicting information about whether ulcers themselves cause bad breath, but if your ulcer was caused by bacteria there is a good chance that it's contributing to your bad breath.
- Sinus. If you are prone to sinus infections, or have a leaky nasal, you might also be prone to bad breath. The mucus in your sinus attracts bacteria which will then give you bad breath.
- Other health conditions. In some, though very rare cases, bad breath can be an early sign of other health conditions, like kidney issues or certain blood disorders.
Once you've narrowed down the source of your bad breath you can take the next steps to address the root cause. Chat with our team if you're interested in creating a personalized oral care routine that gets to the source of bad breath.