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Causes of Bad Breath (Halitosis) by Dr. Kiehl

I want to take a few minutes to talk about the causes of bad breath just so you know the technical term, halitosis simply means bad breath. This is derived from the Latin word halitosis meaning breath or exhalation and the Greek suffix ‘osis’ meaning a process or condition. One quick point before I get started, saliva is important to hygiene in our mouth, contains enzymes that help break down food and maintain the acid-base balance at your mouth both of which block the growth potential of bacteria. It has antibacterial properties as well including compounds such as IgA an antibody that plays a critical role in immunity lactoferrin lysozyme and peroxidase. These are essential to our oral hygiene and ultimately to our overall body health as well.

Poor dental hygiene
And on to the causes of bad breath the first and most common would be poor dental hygiene. If you don't brush and floss your teeth regularly meaning two or three times a day, food particles and bacteria will build up. The bacteria can thrive around your teeth, tongue and gums leading to plaque buildup and over a period of time, sometimes as fast as overnight or in subsequent days your breath will inevitably get worse.

Continued Neglect
Continued neglect can lead to other conditions in your mouth including dental cavities, gum disease or around your teeth. Unfortunately, these issues if not treated can cause problems much worse than bad breath.

Eating certain foods can either release their own foul odor and/or promote certain bacteria that do the same thing. This includes but is certainly not limited to fish, cheese, onions, garlic and other vegetables and spices.

Ketogenic diet
You may have part of the ketogenic diet which is essentially a low carb diet. If your body isn't a significant ketotic state and that is to say that you are relying primarily on body fat for energy production, it can actually cause your breath to smell fruity and this is commonly known as ketotic breath.

Smoking and chewing tobacco and frankly any tobacco products can also cause bad breath not only will they cause your breath to smell bad, they will stain your teeth, Irritate and  erode your gums and increase your risk for gum disease and oral cancer (among other types of cancer)

Dry mouth
If your mouth does not produce enough saliva it can lead to a dry mouth this process is known as xerostomia. Saliva helps clean your mouth and  the lack of saliva can foster an environment for bacteria to grow, causes a dry mouth include dehydration certain illnesses such as (Sjogren's syndrome) medications or excessive breathing through your mouth this is why when you wake up in the morning you have a dry mouth and morning breath because you have an overgrowth of bacteria from the decrease in saliva production.

Other dental causes of bad breath   include
  • Dental cavities also known as dental caries which provide a place inside your tooth where bacteria can flourish.
  •  Poorly fitting dentures or braces can also set you up for bad breath
  • Tonsil stones which are technically known as tonsil lifts can be impacted in the tonsils in the back of your mouth and can be very foul-smelling.
  • And of course post-surgical infections after dental surgery or oral maxillofacial surgery.
  • There are some medical conditions that can also contribute to bad breath this would include upper respiratory tract infections like acute and chronic sinusitis, and thrush as well as lower respiratory tract infections namely bronchitis and pneumonia, diabetes, acid reflux and lactose intolerance can also contribute to bad breath and certain liver and kidney diseases can set you up bad breath as well. 

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