Chronic Bad Breath May Be Telling You Something

  • Feb 17 2021

Should I worry if I have bad breath more than just once in a while?

Everybody has an occasional bout of bad breath. Spending a fair amount of time wearing a face mask that covers our mouth and nose has made us all far too aware of the potential of having less than sparklingly fresh breath. But, what about when we detect it without the mask and without there being a likely culprit to blame it on, like the garlic bread from your favorite Italian restaurant that is just too delicious to pass up?   

If the problem isn’t the garlic bread, what should we do? What exactly is bad breath and where does it come from?

Halitosis, the technical term for bad breath, is certainly not a new problem. Century-old reports have been found that document the Chinese using pigs’ hair to clean their teeth. Ancient Babylonians tried twigs, and the Egyptians even came up with a breath freshener that combined various herbs and spices with honey. It’s hard to know what kind of success was enjoyed with these methods, although rinsing with honey would seem to suggest a whole other set of dental issues in the making. 

The odor associated with bad breath comes from bacteria that has managed to take hold and grow in the mouth. The more important questions deal with where the bacteria comes from and what allows it to flourish.

Common Causes of Bad Breath

Bad Breath Occasionally Present

Bad breath that shows up once in a while is generally caused by behavior, typically eating particular kinds of food, sleeping with the mouth open due to a cold, or following a diet that puts the body into a state of ketosis. As long as the bad breath can be tied to something we do occasionally, the obvious answer is to avoid that behavior or carry breath mints and get home to a toothbrush as soon as possible. Some of the foods that we can usually count on for creating bad breath include:

  • garlic
  • onions
  • spices 
  • cheese
  • fish
  • alcohol

Chronic Bad Breath

When bad breath becomes chronic and cannot be attributed to a particular food or behavior, it becomes something that cannot simply be covered up or brushed away. There is a wide range of conditions and behaviors that can lead to chronic bad breath. Some of the most common are:

  • Gum disease — gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, is often a cause of persistent bad breath due to the ongoing infection in the gums. Professional dental cleaning may not be able to cure bad breath but it can certainly go a long way in preventing gum disease. 
  • Drugs and medications — the body sometimes reacts to certain medications in a way that produces an odor or may cause dryness in the mouth, another cause of persistent bad breath.
  • Tobacco — one more reason for avoiding smoking and tobacco use of any kind can be added the likelihood of it causing bad breath. 
  • Dry mouth from disease or glandular conditions
  • Dentures — when dentures are not adequately maintained and cleaned they become a target for bacterial growth and the unpleasant odor that goes with it.
  • Other medical conditions — sometimes bad breath can be a clue that indicates the presence of conditions like diabetes, liver disease, acid reflux, kidney disease, types of metabolic disorders, sinus infections, and even cancer. 

Chronic bad breath is not something that you should ignore. It can be an indicator of a serious issue, and it is important to make an appointment with your dentist and not simply try to cover it up.

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Categories: General Dentistry