What is the Cause of Bad Breath?

A foul smell in your breath can ruin any conversation, whether you’re trying to kiss a sweetheart or whisper a secret to a friend. Bad breath (also called halitosis) is caused by bacteria that grow in the mouth and between teeth, releasing odor-causing sulfur compounds. Brushing, flossing and using an oral rinse to remove food debris can help reduce odor, but may not be enough to eliminate it completely. Other things that can cause bad breath include certain foods, like onions and garlic, alcohol, sugary drinks and smoking. Some diseases can also give your breath a particular odor.

The most common cause of bad breath is poor oral hygiene, especially not brushing and flossing frequently enough. A build-up of plaque and bacteria in the mouth and between teeth leads to a release of odor-producing sulfur compounds. Other causes of bad breath include sinus infections, a yeast infection in the mouth, gum disease and some illnesses, such as bronchitis and diabetes.

If you have chronic bad breath, try to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables to keep your mouth cleaner. Drink plenty of water, not soda or juice, to keep your mouth moist. A dry mouth allows odor-causing bacteria to thrive. Drink a few cups of water right after you eat to stimulate saliva production.

Keeping a log of the foods you eat and a list of medicines you take can help your dentist identify the cause of your bad breath. Then they can suggest ways to fix it.

A recent study found that a type of fungus in the mouth, which is triggered by stress and can cause bad breath, can be treated with antifungal medications. A mouthwash containing chlorhexidine can also be used to treat a fungal infection.

Gargling with salt water is another simple way to freshen your breath and kill odor-producing bacteria. Add 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of salt to 8 ounces of warm water and swish it around your mouth for 30 seconds, then spit it out. Cloves can also be an effective breath freshener — just chew on them or suck on them for a few minutes.