A Stinky Situation: Bad Breath 101

Bad breath is not the most pleasant of topics. However, if you’ve ever had to sit and converse with someone who has it, or if (even worse!) you’re worried that you are the one inflicting bad breath on other people, you know that it is simply a topic that must be discussed.

What Causes Bad Breath?

Bad breath isn’t just the result of a garlicky pasta lunch, although that can definitely play a part.

Besides what you eat, bad breath can be caused by bad dental hygiene. If you aren’t brushing and flossing properly, there are still bits of food in your mouth. This gives bacteria the chance to grow on your tongue and around your teeth and gums.

Bad breath can also be caused by dry mouth. Dry mouth occurs when there is not enough saliva in the mouth to cleanse the mouth of plaque and dead cells. When these cells decompose, bad breath results. You may have dry mouth because of problems with your salivary gland or even as a side effect of certain medications.

Smoking can also lead to bad breath. Everyone knows that cigarettes don’t smell good, but besides this, smokers have a higher risk of having gum disease, which is another reason someone’s breath may smell less-than-fresh.

If you have persistent bad breath that you just can’t seem to get rid of, it might be a sign of other health problems. These can be serious issues, such as mouth infections, pneumonia, bronchitis, diabetes, chronic sinus infections, and even kidney or liver problems.

How Can You Prevent Bad Breath?

  1. If you smoke, stop.
  2. Make sure you properly clean dentures and other dental appliances.
  3. Take care of your mouth. Floss at least once a day and brush after every meal. Replace your toothbrush every two months and make sure you see your dentist twice a year.
  4. Drink lots of water to prevent dry mouth. You can also try sugarless gum or candy to stimulate saliva.
  5. Keep track of the foods you eat and the medications you take, to see if you can pinpoint the cause of bad breath.
  6. Brush your tongue. The tongue is the perfect place for bacteria, food, and dead cells to accumulate and give you bad breath. You can use your toothbrush, or even buy a tongue cleaner.
  7. Watch out for certain foods. Of course you already know about onions and garlic, but there are some other foods that can trigger bad breath. For instance, meat is notorious for getting stuck and staying stuck in between teeth and under the gum line, which can lead to bacteria build up.
  8. Certain drinks can give you bad breath as well. Coffee, alcohol, and sodas especially cause bad breath because of their acidic nature.

How Can You Treat Bad Breath?

A visit to your dentist may also help. If you have gum disease, you’ll need to get a professional cleaning to make sure any bacteria that may be causing mouth odor are cleaned out.

Of course, sometimes you just have bad breath, no matter what you try to do to prevent it. Sometimes brushing, mouthwash, gum, and mints may take care of bad breath, only to have it return fairly quickly.

If you find this happening to you, you might try a different mouthwash, such as an antiseptic mouthwash that specifically claims to kill germs in your mouth.

It can also help just to rinse with plain water after eating or drinking, which will not only get rid of any bits of food, but also helps to prevent dry mouth.

There are also some herbs and foods that you can eat to help keep your breath smelling fresh: dill, mint, cilantro, basil, parsley, citrus fruits (and other fruits high in vitamin C), and crunchy fruits and veggies such as apples and carrots.

About Mark C. Marchbanks, D.D.S.

Dr. Mark Marchbanks has practiced dentistry in Arlington Texas since 1983. He enjoys caring for patients young and old. You can find Dr. Marchbanks on
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If it's been more than 6 months since your last teeth cleaning, give us a call today to schedule your check-up.

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