Bad breath, or halitosis, is a common condition that can be caused by poor oral hygiene or other medical problems. It can also be caused by eating certain foods or by habits such as smoking.
Food begins to be broken down in the mouth. As it is digested and absorbed into the bloodstream, food is carried to the lungs and given off in breath. Eating foods with strong odors, such as onions and garlic, can contribute to bad breath that will not completely go away until the foods have been fully digested.
Improper brushing and flossing can leave food particles in the mouth. This can allow bacteria to grow between teeth, on the gums, and on the tongue and can cause bad breath. Brushing, flossing, and using an antibacterial mouth rinse can reduce or eliminate bad breath. Not properly cleaning dentures and smoking or chewing tobacco can also lead to bad breath.
Saliva moistens the mouth, neutralizes acids produced by plaque, and washes away dead cells from the tongue, gums, and cheek. Dry mouth, or xerostomia, can be a side effect of some medications or can be caused by a problem with the salivary glands or breathing through the mouth.
Persistent bad breath or a bad taste in the mouth can be a symptom of another condition, such as gum disease, poorly fitting dental appliances, a yeast infection in the mouth, or cavities. Other conditions, such as pneumonia, bronchitis, a chronic sinus infection, postnasal drip, diabetes, chronic acid reflux, and liver or kidney problems, can cause bad breath.
One of the best ways to prevent bad breath is to brush twice a day, floss once a day, and use an antibacterial mouthwash twice a day. Dentures should be removed and thoroughly cleaned at night.
Visit your dentist twice a year for exams and cleanings. He or she will be able to diagnose and treat conditions such as periodontal disease and dry mouth. Discuss the foods you eat and any medications you take to find out if they could be contributing to bad breath.
Avoid smoking and chewing tobacco. Drink lots of water to keep your mouth moist. Chewing sugarless gum or sucking on sugarless candy can stimulate saliva production.