Bad Breath - Causes

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What are the causes of bad breath?

There are many causes for bad breath; some common causes are listed below.

  • Food: Food is a primary source of bad odors that come from the mouth. Some foods, such as garlic, onions, and spicy foods, exotic spices (such as curry), some cheeses, fish, and acidic beverages such as coffee can leave a lingering smell. Most of the time this is short term. Other foods may get stuck in the teeth, promoting the growth of bacteria, which causes bad breath odor. Low carbohydrate diets may also cause "ketone breath." These diets cause the body to burn fat as its energy source. The end-product of making this energy is ketones, which cause a fruity acetone-like odor on the breath when exhaled.
  • Tobacco products: Smoking and chewing tobacco can leave chemicals that remain in the mouth. Smoking can also precipitate other bad-breath causes such as gum disease or oral cancers.
  • Poor dental hygiene: When a person does not brush or floss regularly, food particles remaining in the mouth can rot and cause bad odors. Poor dental care can lead to a buildup of plaque in the mouth, which causes an odor of its own. Plaque buildup can also lead to periodontal (gum) disease. The mild form of gum disease is called gingivitis; if gingivitis is not treated, it can advance to periodontitis.
  • Health problems: Sinus infections, pneumonia, sore throat (pharyngitis) and other throat infections, thrush, bronchitis, postnasal drip, diabetes, acid reflux, lactose intolerance, other stomach problems, and some liver or kidney diseases may be associated with bad breath.
  • Dry mouth: Also called xerostomia, dry mouth can also cause bad breath. Saliva helps moisten and cleanse the mouth, and when the body does not product enough saliva, bad breath may result. Dry mouth may be caused by salivary gland problems, connective tissue disorders (Sjögren's syndrome), medications, or breathing through the mouth.
  • Mouth infections: Cavities, gum disease, or impacted teeth may cause bad breath.
  • Dentures or braces: Food particles not properly cleaned from appliances can rot or cause bacteria and odor. Loose-fitting dentures may cause sores or infections in the mouth, which can cause bad breath.
  • Medications: Many medications, including antihistamines and diuretics, can cause dry mouth (see above), which can cause bad breath. Other medications that may lead to bad breath may include insulin shots, triamterene (Dyrenium), and paraldehyde.
  • "Morning breath": Bad breath in the morning is very common. Saliva production nearly stops during sleep, which allows bacteria to grow, causing bad breath.
  • Other causes of bad breath: Objects stuck in the nose (usually in children), alcoholism, and large doses of vitamin supplements may also cause bad breath.
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See what others are saying

Comment from: Mike, 75 or over Male (Patient) Published: August 23

I think that the weak saliva is the cause.

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Comment from: grace, 35-44 Female (Patient) Published: January 03

Yes, I have sinus and my throat, nose and ears itch. I feel like food sticks in my throat, no matter how much I brush, the smells stays. I floss all the time, but the odor is bad and I have acid reflux.

Was this comment helpful?Yes

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