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Mouth and Dental Disorders > Badbreath

What is Bad Breath?

You wonder if you have it. You cup your hand to your mouth and try to smell it your self but you cant smell anything. You worry about it but no one is telling you. This is the very reason why store shelves are overflowing with mints, mouthwashes and other products designed to help people control bad breath. And Americans spend $1 billion a year for these products. While these products help control bad breath (halitosis) only temporarily, they actually may be less effective in controlling bad breath than simply rinsing your mouth with water after brushing and flossing your teeth.
Certain foods, health conditions and habits are among the causes of bad breath. In many cases, you can improve bad breath with proper dental hygiene.
If simple self-care techniques don't solve the problem, you may want to see your dentist or doctor to rule out a more serious condition that may be causing your bad breath.


Causes of Bad Breath

Bad breath may be due to the following causes:

  • Food. The breakdown of food particles in and around your teeth can cause a foul odor.
  • Alcohol. Alcohol itself has almost no odor, however. The characteristic smell on your breath is mainly the odor of other components of the beverage.
  • Dental problems. Poor dental hygiene and periodontal disease can be a source of bad breath. If you don't brush and floss daily, food particles remain in your mouth, collecting bacteria and emitting hydrogen sulfur vapors. A colorless, sticky film of bacteria (plaque) forms on your teeth.
  • Dry mouth. Saliva helps cleanse and moisten your mouth. A dry mouth enables dead cells to accumulate on your tongue, gums and cheeks. These cells then decompose and cause odor. Dry mouth naturally occurs during sleep. It's what causes "morning breath." Dry mouth is even more of a problem if you sleep with your mouth open. Some medications as well as smoking can lead to a chronic dry mouth, as can a problem with your salivary glands.
  • Diseases. Chronic lung infections and lung abscesses can produce very foul-smelling breath. Several other illnesses can also cause a distinctive breath odor. Kidney failure can cause a urine-like odor, liver failure may cause an odor described as "fishy." People with uncontrolled diabetes often have a fruity breath odor and others.
  • Mouth, nose and throat conditions. Bad breath is also associated with sinus infections. Nasal discharge to the back of your throat can cause mouth odor. A child with bad breath may have a foreign object lodged in his or her nose. Strep throat, tonsillitis and mononucleosis can cause bad breath until the throat infection clears. Bronchitis and other upper respiratory infections in which you cough up odorous sputum are other sources of bad breath. Canker sores may be related to bad breath, especially if they accompany periodontal disease.
  • Tobacco products. Smoking dries out your mouth and causes its own unpleasant mouth odor. Tobacco users are also more likely to have periodontal disease, an additional source of bad breath.
    Severe dieting. Dieters may develop unpleasant "fruity" breath from ketoacidosis, the breakdown of chemicals during fasting.

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