What are the Different Causes of Bad Breath?

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

Just about everyone has experienced the phenomenon of halitosis, or bad breath. Often, the origin of the problem is some type of food, or a need to practice more efficient oral hygiene. At times, the underlying causes of bad breath are a little more involved and possibly serious.

A tongue scraper, which can help with bad breath.
A tongue scraper, which can help with bad breath.

Perhaps the single most common reason for developing bad breath is the type of foods the individual consumes. Various spices can linger long after a meal, and sometimes result in breath that is less than pleasant. Certain cooking oils can also add to the problem. Garlic and onions are well known for their ability to cause bad breath, with the effects capable of lasting for as long as seventy-two hours after consumption. Generally, brushing after each meal, using a good quality mouthwash, and flossing at least a few times each week will help to eliminate bad breath when food is the problem.

Chewing tobacco, which contributes to bad breath.
Chewing tobacco, which contributes to bad breath.

Another of the frequent causes of bad breath has to do with the condition of the teeth and gums. When poor oral hygiene is practiced, a form of bacteria known as plaque begins to form on the teeth, emitting an unpleasant odor. If the plaque is not removed regularly, the bacteria will eventually begin to irritate the gums, leading to the formation of gingivitis as well as tooth decay. This only increases the pungency of the bad breath. Taking steps to restore good oral health, including repairing any teeth damaged by decay, is necessary to getting rid of bad breath.

Smoking cigarettes can cause bad breath.
Smoking cigarettes can cause bad breath.

While not everyone is aware of the fact, one of the other common causes of bad breath is a dry mouth. Saliva does more than simply keep the oral cavity moist; it also helps to cleanse the area as well. The cleansing action helps to remove dead cells on the tongue, gums, and cheeks, minimizing the development of what is sometimes called morning breath. People who tend to breathe through their mouths when sleeping often awake with dry mouth, as well as breath that smells stale and unpleasant.

The causes of bad breath can vary from what someone has recently eaten to underlying dental problems.
The causes of bad breath can vary from what someone has recently eaten to underlying dental problems.

Smoking is also among the causes of bad breath. This habit helps to dry out the mouth, causing an effect much like that of breathing through the mouth while sleeping. In addition, the lingering scent of tobacco in the mouth only increases the pungent aroma of the breath, and may even increase the risk of gum disease.

Mouthwash may help reduce bad breath.
Mouthwash may help reduce bad breath.

In some cases, underlying health issues are the real causes of bad breath. For someone who practices excellent oral hygiene, breathes through the nose when sleeping, and does not use tobacco products, the presence of bad breath may be a sign of some type of developing gastrointestinal issue. Halitosis may also be a sign of an infection in the nasal passages or the throat, or some other type of upper respiratory condition. When regular brushing, flossing, and the use of a good quality mouth rinse does not banish the bad breath, consulting a physician is a wise move, since it may allow the individual to receive treatment before the underlying health problem becomes a major issue.

Anyone who doesn't brush after eating is at risk of having bad breath.
Anyone who doesn't brush after eating is at risk of having bad breath.
A buildup of plaque and bacteria in the mouth can cause bad breath.
A buildup of plaque and bacteria in the mouth can cause bad breath.
Certain foods like onions can cause bad breath.
Certain foods like onions can cause bad breath.
Poor oral hygiene may cause bad breath.
Poor oral hygiene may cause bad breath.
Regularly tongue brushing removes harmful odor causing bacteria.
Regularly tongue brushing removes harmful odor causing bacteria.
Chlorophyll works as a deodorizer to reduce the smell of odor producing bacteria.
Chlorophyll works as a deodorizer to reduce the smell of odor producing bacteria.
Flossing can remove food particles that might cause bad breath.
Flossing can remove food particles that might cause bad breath.
For some people, chronic bad breath can be a sign of a serious health condition, like cancer or diabetes.
For some people, chronic bad breath can be a sign of a serious health condition, like cancer or diabetes.
Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

After many years in the teleconferencing industry, Michael decided to embrace his passion for trivia, research, and writing by becoming a full-time freelance writer. Since then, he has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including wiseGEEK, and his work has also appeared in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and several newspapers. Malcolm’s other interests include collecting vinyl records, minor league baseball, and cycling.

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