Medically referred to as halitosis, bad breath can be caused by a great number of things, but it is mainly caused by bacteria breaking down food particles in your mouth. Poor oral hygiene, gum diseases, yeast infections of the mouth, dental cavities, smoking, the type of foods you eat can all cause your breath to smell bad. How can you prevent halitosis and what diseases are associated with bad breath?

Poor oral hygiene – most common cause of halitosis

The number one culprit of bad breath is poor oral hygiene. If you don’t brush your teeth regularly and don’t floss, food particles can become trapped between your teeth. Bacteria breaks down these food particles and produce bad smelling gases. Your tongue and gums are also a breeding ground for bacteria, but using an antibacterial mouthwash can help reduce these, and prevent the formation of plaque and dental cavities.

Practice good oral hygiene habits by brushing your teeth and tongue twice a day, changing your toothbrush every 2 to 3 months or after an illness, and going to the dentist regularly. Developing these habits can also prevent dental caries, which can also cause bad breath.

Periodontal diseases are also responsible for bad breath. The build-up of plaque can irritate your gums, and if left untreated, periodontal disease can damage your gums and jawbone.

Yeast infections of the mouth and ill-fitting dental appliances are other dental causes of halitosis.

Non-dental causes of halitosis

There are cases in which an unpleasant breath is not a result of precarious oral hygiene. Xerostomia (dry mouth) is a condition that is identified as a reduction of salivary flow, which is often a side effect of certain medications. Saliva has an important role is moistening the mouth and neutralising the acids produced by plaque. Saliva is also responsible for washing away dead cells, which will decompose if not removed, thus, causing bad breath.

Drinking plenty of fluids will keep your mouth from drying out. Chewing sugarless gums or eating sugarless candy can stimulate the flow of saliva, which will wash away bacteria and food particles.

Dry mouth is not the only condition associated with bad breath. Other illnesses or diseases may also cause bad breath. Respiratory tract infections (e.g. pneumonia, bronchitis, sinus infections), diabetes, gastrointestinal problems (e.g. bacterial infections, acid reflux), or problems of the liver or kidney can all cause halitosis.

How to prevent and manage bad breath problems?

Given that so many things can cause halitosis or oral malodour, its incidence rate is also very high. The first step in managing halitosis is to determine its root cause. If it’s caused by tooth decay or gum diseases, your dentist can treat your caries and gum problems. If your dentist determines that the source of odour is not an oral problem, he will refer you to a specialist who can help you determine its exact cause.

Kicking the habit of smoking can prevent gum diseases and bad breath. Crash diets and fasting cause your body to break down fat. This process produces chemicals known as ketones that are another possible cause of bad smelling breath.