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Stacey Feintuch

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What Causes Bad Breath? 11 Reasons for Your Smelly Breath
What Causes Bad Breath? 11 Reasons for Your Smelly Breath

What Causes Bad Breath? 11 Reasons for Your Smelly Breath

At least 50 percent of adults have had halitosis in their lifetime. But what causes bad breath? Here are some possible things.

Your Health

You're not alone if you're constantly popping breath mints. According to the American Dental Association, at least 50 percent of adults have had halitosis, commonly known as bad breath, in their lifetime. But what causes bad breath? Read on to find out some halitosis causes behind your smelly breath. And find out what you can do to combat it.

READ: What's the connection between bad breath and menopause?

You suffer from dry mouth.
Your mouth may not be producing enough saliva. Saliva works 24/7 removing food particles and keeping your mouth clean. Your mouth isn't being cleaned properly if you don't have enough saliva. Dry mouth can also be caused by certain medications, salivary gland problems or breathing through your mouth. The condition also happens naturally while you sleep. Eating healthy foods that require a lot of chewing like carrots or apples can promote saliva production. You may also try chewing sugar-free gum or sucking on sugar-free candies.

You're suffering from gum disease.
You may have advanced gum disease if you constantly have a bad taste in your mouth or bad breath that won't go away. Gum disease is caused by plaque, a bacteria that causes cavities. Your dentist can detect early gum disease symptoms, treating them before they become more serious. You may be referred to a periodontist, who is a gum disease specialist.

You smoke.
Smokers and oral tobacco users are more likely to have gum disease, a source of bad breath. Smoking is strongly associated with the onset of gum disease. Since smoking weakens your immune system, it also makes it harder to fight off a gum disease infection, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Plus, smoking makes it more difficult for your gums to heal once they've been damaged. Quitting this bad habit will give you better breath plus an improved quality of life.

You're eating the wrong foods.
After you digest foods, they enter your bloodstream and are carried to your lungs. That impacts your breath. Foods like garlic, coffee, alcohol, salsa and onions can have that effect. To avoid smelling like alcohol, for example, drink at a slower pace. Or alternate a glass of water or other nonalcoholic beverage between each alcoholic drink.

You're dehydrated.
When you don't drink enough water, food and the bacteria that feeds on it linger in your mouth longer. That breeds the stench. Drink plain water to help you stay hydrated.

You practice poor oral hygiene.
Food particles stay in your mouth if you don't brush and floss daily. Plaque forms on your teeth. When not brushed away, those particles irritate your gums. Your tongue can also trap bacteria that produce odors. Floss at least once a day to help remove the plaque and food that's beyond your toothbrush's reach, according to the American Dental Association. Brush your teeth after every meal to help remove the food and plaque trapped between your teeth and gums. Your toothbrush should have soft bristles and fit in your mouth comfortably, says the Mayo Clinic. Consider a battery-powered or electric toothbrush, which can help reduce gingivitis (a form of gum disease) and plaque more than manual brushing. Swap toothbrushes or toothbrush heads every three to four months, or sooner if the bristles start to fray. Select toothpaste that contains fluoride and has the ADA seal of acceptance. (After that, the flavor and color is up to you.) And don't forget about brushing or using a tongue scraper on your tongue; bacteria thrive there, too.

You don't clean your dentures.
Dentures that aren't regularly cleaned can house bacteria and food particles, causing odors. Remove and clean removable dentures at night. Clean dentures thoroughly before using them in the morning.

You're on certain medications.
Antihistamines, decongestants and muscle relaxers as well as medications to treat nerve pain and anxiety can cause dry mouth. Other medications are broken down in the body and release chemicals that can be carried to your breath. You can talk to your doctor about switching meds or adjusting your dosage.

You have a medical condition.
Mouth infections mean you have bacteria. When that bacteria decomposes, it can release odors. It can also be the result of health conditions such as gastric reflux, diabetes, liver disease, kidney disease or a sinus condition. The same bacteria that give you bad breath also infect your tonsils, giving you recurrent sore throats. Your healthcare provider can determine what's going on if your dentist has ruled out other causes.

You have a cavity.
Untreated cavities can cause pain and sensitivity. They can also give off odors as bacteria eat away at your tooth. Visit your dentist regularly for cleanings, clinical exams and X-rays that can identify cavities.

You still have your wisdom teeth.
If you're holding onto your wisdom teeth, the teeth and gums over the wisdom teeth can trap food and bacteria, becoming infected. That can contribute to stinky breath. Speak with your dentist if you need your wisdom teeth removed. If you have an infection, you may need antibiotics to clear it.

Learn more about How to Avoid Bad Breath: The Best Product for Your Mouth.

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