Talking with someone who has bad breath can be an unpleasant experience, and realizing that your own breath smells bad can be a cause of embarrassment and social anxiety. Before you try to disguise bad breath with a mint, it’s worth a little thought to be sure bad breath isn’t a symptom of a bigger medical issue.
When we exhale, air from our lungs can pick up various odors from inside the body. When these odors are unpleasant, we call the result bad breath or halitosis. A number of things can cause bad breath, including the foods we eat, our habits, and a variety of health conditions.
When we eat, small particles of food remain behind in and around the teeth. The breakdown of these particles can cause a bad odor in the mouth. Certain foods that contain volatile oils are another source of bad breath. Most people know that onions and garlic can cause bad breath. Depending on your digestion, other foods, such as cabbage and coffee, can also result in bad breath. As these foods are digested, the oils are absorbed into the bloodstream. As the blood passes through the lungs to receive oxygen, it can hand off the odor from these oils into the air we exhale. These odors can continue until the food is completely eliminated from the body. In fact, onion or garlic-breath can continue for up to 72 hours after you eat them.
Food particles that remain in the mouth after eating can collect bacteria and give off strong odors. Brushing and flossing can remove these particles and freshen the breath. Failing to brush can allow a sticky film of bacteria known as plaque to form on the teeth, which is another cause of bad breath. In turn, plaque can cause gum disease, which make bad breath worse. Cavities in the teeth and poorly fitting dentures or dentures that are not properly cleaned are also causes of bad breath.
“Morning breath” is bad breath caused by the mouth drying out while we sleep. Saliva helps keep the mouth clean and moist. When the mouth is too dry, dead cells accumulate on the tongue, gums, and cheeks. When these cells decay, they cause bad breath.