Check Your Breath

A seal is yawning in the face of another seal.Bad breath, also known as halitosis, is hard to detect on yourself. Breathing into your hand and trying to smell your breath doesn’t work. The best way to find out is to ask close family, friends and co-workers if you have bad breath. They’ll appreciate you asking since it may improve their relationship with you. Bad breath is embarrassing and causes awkward social, personal and professional situations.

Bad Breath Causes

Usually, bad breath is caused when food accumulates and gets trapped between the teeth and tongue. Food that is trapped releases bacteria causing a bad smell. Other causes of bad breath include:

  • Eating foods like garlic, onions, cabbage, cheese and pastrami, and spicy foods. Drinks like orange juice and caffeine-laden soda and coffee can also give you bad breath.
  • Tooth decay and gum disease (gingivitis)
  • Dry mouth from a lack of saliva. Saliva moistens the mouth, neutralizes acids from plaque and washes away dead cells on the gums, tongue and inside of the mouth.
  • Smoking, chewing tobacco, any kind of tobacco products

Ways to Prevent Bad Breath

Eliminating bad breath starts with good dental and oral hygiene. Brush your teeth with fluoride toothpaste at least twice a day. Brush for two minutes each time. Brush after meals, before going to sleep and when you wake up. Floss your teeth daily. Floss reaches food particles and bacteria that your toothbrush can’t reach. Also, brush your tongue. A plastic tongue cleaner works well to reach the back of your tongue where bacteria lives.

  • See your dentist twice a year for teeth cleaning. Your dentist may refer you to a periodontist to remove bacteria, tartar or plaque build-up at the gumline.
  • Don’t smoke or chew tobacco.
  • Drink lots of water to prevent dry mouth and remove foul odors.
  • Chew sugarless gum or use sugarless candy or mints if you can’t brush after a meal. These can produce saliva and clear out remaining food particles.
  • Gargle with nonalcoholic mouthwash or mouth rinse.
  • Drink fewer caffeine products, i.e. coffee or soda.
  • Eat high-fiber foods like raw fruit, whole grains and vegetables.

Medical Reasons for Bad Breath

There may be medical reasons for your bad breath that aren’t related to dental and oral hygiene, eating or smoking habits. If you can’t solve bad breath on your own or by seeing a dentist or oral specialist, you may want to go a medical specialist to determine if any of these are causing bad breath:

  • Nasal or sinus infections where bacteria is trapped in nasal sinus passages
  • Small stones, also known as tonsoliths or tonsil stones, that are attached to the tonsils. They appear as small, white lumps or specs on the back of the throat or are hidden in the folds of the tonsils. These stones trap bacteria, dead cells and food particles.
  • Respiratory infections like pneumonia or bronchitis that damage respiratory tissues in the windpipe or lungs
  • Problems with your digestive system such as acid reflux and heartburn. Although you may have good dental and oral hygiene, acid reflux can lead to tooth decay and dental/gum problems.
  • Diabetes, kidney problems, liver disease, metabolism abnormalities and ulcers can also lead to bad breath.

Consult with your primary care physician for prolonged bad breath concerns.