Halitosis (Bad Breath)

An estimated thirty percent of Americans have bad breath. Over ten-million Americans have "chronic halitosis" or persistent bad breath. Sixty percent of all halitosis is of oral in origin. 

Americans spend more than $1 billion a year on over-the-counter halitosis products, many of which are ineffective because they only mask the problem.

What causes bad breath?

Bad breath is caused by a variety of factors. In most cases, it is caused by food remaining in the mouth - on the teeth, tongue and gums. This trapped food is a feeding ground for bacteria.  Dead and dying bacterial cells release a sulfur compound that gives your breath an unpleasant odor.  Periodontal Disease is caused by plaque - the sticky, often colorless, film of bacteria that constantly forms on teeth.  Periodontal Disease often causes persistent bad breath and a bad taste in the mouth.  Persistent bad breath may be a sign that you have some level of Periodontal Disease.

Certain foods, such as garlic and onions, contribute to breath odor. Once the food is absorbed into the bloodstream, it is transferred to the lungs and exhaled.  Often, people who are dieting develop an unpleasant odor to their breath.  This can be from fasting or a by-product of Ketosis, when the body begins to break down fat cells for energy.

Dry Mouth or Xerostomia may also cause bad breath due to decreased salivary flow.  Saliva cleans your mouth and removes particles that may cause odor.  Saliva also helps to keep bacteria from attaching to tooth structure.  When a person has Dry Mouth, greater amounts and different strains of bacteria grow in the mouth.  Xerostomia is often seen in the elderly and patients who have had head and neck radiation.  It is also a possible side-effect of certain medications.  Over-the-counter products, such as Biotene and Oasis, help patients with the issues caused by Dry Mouth.  Ask our Hygiene Staff if any samples are available at your next cleaning appointment.

Tobacco products cause bad breath and stain teeth.   Smoking also reduces the ability to taste foods and irritates the gingival tissue.  Please, stop smoking.

Improperly cleaned Dentures also harbor odor-causing bacteria and food particles.  If you wear removable Dentures, take them out at night and clean them thoroughly.  Soak the denture with a cleaning tablet over-night, and brush them well before putting them in the next morning.

Health issues related to bad breath

Bad breath may also be a sign that you are having a health problem.  All the systems of the body are connected through the Circulatory System which carries the blood.  If something is wrong somewhere in the body, elements of that problem may be carried by the blood and deposited in the lungs, lymph nodes and urine.  Below is a partial list of health problems that are know to cause Halitosis.

  • Diabetes
  • Pneumonia
  • Rheumatic Fever
  • Lung Abscess 
  • Measles 
  • Cirrhosis of the Liver
  • Tuberculosis 
  • Hand-Schuller-Christian Disease
  • Scurvy
  • Scarlet Fever
  • Kidney Failure
  • Diphtheria
  • Syphilis

Bad breath may also be caused by medications, including central nervous system agents, Anti-Parkinson Disease drugs, antihistamines & decongestants, anti-psychotics, narcotics, high blood pressure medications, and anti-depressants. 

Caring for bad breath

Eliminating Periodontal Disease and maintaining good oral health helps to reduce bad breath.  Daily Brushing and Flossing and Routine Preventive Cleanings, will normally take care of most bad breath. As part of your daily routine, do not forget to brush your tongue.  The tongue is often the number one culprit for bad breath.  The tongue's surface is extremely rough, and bacteria and food debris can accumulate easily in its cracks and crevices.

If the odor is due to Periodontal Disease, our Doctors and Hygienist will treat the problem in our office or refer you to a Periodontist (gum specialist) if the case is severe.  Periodontal Disease can cause gum tissue to pull away from the teeth and form deep pockets.  When the Periodontal Pockets are deep, a Deep Scaling and Root Planing by a Dentist or Hygienist may be required to remove all the bacteria that has accumulated.

Mouthwashes are generally ineffective on Halitosis.  Some antiseptic mouth rinses, such as Listerine, have been accepted by the American Dental Association for their breath freshening properties and therapeutic benefits in reducing plaque and gingivitis.  Instead of simply masking breath odor, these products have been demonstrated to kill the germs that cause bad breath.  Ask our Hygiene Staff if any samples are available at you next cleaning appointment.

If your dentist determines that your mouth is healthy and that the odor is not oral in nature, you may be referred to your family physician to determine the cause of the odor.  It is wise to make a list of the foods you eat and any medications you are taking to give to your Doctor.


Dental Website Design by Dentist Design, Inc.