The Many Faces of Bad Breath

The typical oral aisle of any drugstore would have us believe that bad breath can be treated permanently by purchasing a steady stream of mint or cinnamon-flavored products and using them several times per day. Unfortunately, what virtually none of these product labels mentions is that these products are merely covering the scent of our breath and not treating the root cause of the problem.

Dentists estimate that 85-90% of mouth odors are caused by the build-up of plaque on our teeth and the resulting gum disease. If you have recurring issues with mouth odor, have your dentist examine your mouth and gums to rule out this issue.

However, bad breath can be caused by many other things besides forgetting to brush our teeth. It can be indicative of:

1) Acid reflux/heartburn/GERD. Stomach acids have an odor, but typically they are contained so far down inside our bodies that we do not detect it. However, when stomach acids make it to the esophagus, odor may certainly follow. Many times, treating the heartburn or acid reflux will eliminate the breath odor.

2) Gas. Gas that results in belching has an odor, and that gas is exiting from your mouth. Pop a mint or some gum if you find yourself burping after a meal or beverage. If you experience gas pains, taking an over-the-counter gas relief medicine may eliminate the breath odor before it starts.

3) Seasonal allergies. If seasonal allergies give you nasal issues such as sinus pain or post-nasal drip, this can cause bad breath in two ways. First, any infected area will put off an odor (like the stuffy sinuses), and swallowing mucus will cause odor to emanate from the stomach. To make matters worse, some over-the-counter decongestants can cause dry mouth, which also causes bad breath. If you are suffering from nasal symptoms, drink plenty of clear fluids, which not only helps your body eliminate infection, but it also keeps your mouth moist and then decreases incidents of breath odor.

4) Diabetes. People with diabetes are at much higher risk for gum disease, because their elevated blood sugar levels create an environment in their mouths suitable for bacteria to grow. Those bacteria smell bad, so diabetics often have issues with bad breath.

5) Smoking. Cigarette smoke smells bad anyway, but once a smoker inhales the smoke, it becomes an issue on another level. The smoke is absorbed and processed through the lungs. The lungs produce the (mostly) carbon dioxide that we exhale. However, if we’re inhaling contaminated air, we will exhale contaminated gas. To put it another way, as a smoker, you are putting out the odor you are taking in.

6) Ulcers. If your doctor has diagnosed you as having an ulcer, you may have found the cause of your breath issue. The bacteria growing in the stomach have an odor that is carried up through the esophagus. By taking ulcer medication as prescribed, this issue disappears.

7) Sleep apnea/asthma. Whenever we’re forced to breathe through our mouths, our mouths become dry, and this quickly leads to bad breath.