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Bad breath could be a sign of gum disease or dry mouth

  • Everyone suffers occasionally from bad breath. Bad breath is most commonly caused by conditions in your mouth, such as the food you eat, and how often you clean your teeth, gums and tongue.

  • Persistent bad breath can be a sign of gum disease or dry mouth. If it is caused by an oral condition, your dentist can develop a treatment plan to help you get rid of it.

  • If your gums and teeth are healthy, your dentist may refer you to your family doctor or a specialist to determine the cause of bad breath.

We all suffer from bad breath (halitosis) at one time or another. But if you have persistent bad breath, you should speak to your dentist.

Causes of bad breath

  • Poor dental hygiene. The most common cause of bad breath is when the bacteria in your mouth break down the food caught in and around teeth. Infrequent brushing and flossing will let food particles cling to your teeth longer.

  • Certain foods — such as garlic, onions and some spices — can contribute to bad breath for up to 72 hours after eating. After digestion, the proteins in these foods circulate in the bloodstream. They are carried into the lungs and are expelled in your breath until they exit your system.

  • Cigarettes, cigars and chewing tobacco can cause dry mouth and bad breath, on top of being harmful to your overall health. Ask your dentist for help with quitting.

  • Bad breath can also be an early symptom of periodontal or gum disease. Gum disease is an infection that affects the gums and jawbone, which can lead to a loss of gum and teeth. If left alone, the bacteria will build up on your teeth and irritate the gums.

  • Dry mouth. Saliva helps cleanse your mouth and remove food particles. When you can’t produce enough saliva, bad breath can occur. Some medications, alcohol and breathing with your mouth open can all contribute to dry mouth.

  • Medical Conditions. Persistent bad breath can be a sign of digestive issues or other medical conditions like respiratory tract infections, chronic sinusitis or postnasal drip.

Preventing bad breath

  • Drink plenty of water. Extra water flushes away more food, so there’s less material for bacteria to break down.

  • Brush your teeth, gums and tongue daily. Clean as far back on your tongue as you can, as that’s where bacteria often collect.

  • Flossing helps removes food particles from between the teeth and under the gum line. If you don’t clean your mouth, any remaining food particles will attract bacteria, which cause bad breath and contribute to tooth decay.

  • Regular checkups. Your dentist can catch any problems, such as gum disease or dry mouth, and stop them before they become more serious.

  • For dry mouth, chewing sugarless gum may be helpful to stimulate saliva flow.

Don’t ignore bad breath. Most of the time, it can easily be treated by the dentist. If your dentist determines your mouth is healthy, they may refer you to your family physician.


Information as per the Ontario Dental Association https://www.oda.ca/oral-health-basics/oral-conditions-diseases/bad-breath/