The Taboo Topic Of Bad Breath And How To Prevent It

Bad breath, medically known as halitosis, is a condition characterised by an unpleasant or foul odour originating from a person’s mouth. It can be embarrassing and a cause of concern for those who experience it, as well as for those who interact with them.

Common Causes of Bad Breath

Bad breath is common, and the reasons that cause it can happen to anyone. The primary cause of bad breath is often inadequate oral hygiene. When you don’t brush and floss regularly, food particles and bacteria can accumulate in your mouth, leading to the release of unpleasant odours. These bacteria can thrive on food debris, plaque, and other substances in your mouth.

Other causes for bad breath include:

  • Bacterial Growth: The natural bacteria in your mouth can break down food particles and release sulphur compounds. These sulphur compounds have a strong and offensive odour, contributing to bad breath.
  • Gum Disease: Periodontal diseases, such as gingivitis and periodontitis, can lead to bad breath. These conditions are characterised by inflammation and infection of the gums and supporting structures of the teeth.
  • Dry Mouth: Saliva helps clean the mouth and neutralise acids produced by bacteria. When there’s reduced saliva production, as occurs in dry mouth, it can lead to bad breath.
  • Dental Issues: Infected teeth, dental abscesses, and untreated cavities can release unpleasant odours, contributing to bad breath.
  • Smoking and Tobacco Use: Smoking and the use of tobacco products can lead to bad breath, and they also increase the risk of gum disease and other dental problems.
  • Dietary Habits: Certain foods like garlic, onions, and strong spices can cause temporary bad breath. Once these foods are digested and eliminated from the body, the bad breath usually subsides.
  • Medical Conditions: Certain medical conditions, such as respiratory infections, sinus problems, diabetes, and liver or kidney diseases, can contribute to bad breath. Additionally, some medications can lead to dry mouth, which exacerbates bad breath.

Other factors such as stress, alcohol consumption, and crash dieting can also affect your breath.

Types of Bad Breath

Did you know that there are several different types of bad breath? Generally, they are categorised based on their underlying causes. Here are some of the common types, which many suffer from.

Morning Breath: Morning breath is a natural occurrence that many people experience when they wake up. During sleep, saliva production decreases, allowing odour-causing bacteria to proliferate in the mouth. Morning breath is usually temporary and can be alleviated by brushing and flossing upon waking.

  • Transient Bad Breath: Transient bad breath is temporary bad breath that is often caused by factors like consuming pungent foods (e.g., garlic, onions), smoking, or drinking alcohol. These odours are usually eliminated after the substances are metabolised or leave the body.
  • Chronic Bad Breath: Chronic bad breath is an ongoing issue that can result from various underlying causes. It may be indicative of a more serious problem and often requires a more comprehensive approach to treatment. Causes of chronic bad breath can include poor oral hygiene, gum disease, dental issues, dry mouth, or underlying medical conditions.
  • Medication-Induced Bad Breath: Some medications can cause dry mouth as a side effect, reducing saliva production and potentially leading to bad breath. Dry mouth can also result in altered taste perception.
  • Diet-Induced Bad Breath: Consuming a diet high (or low) in certain foods can lead to the production of ketones in the body, resulting in a specific type of bad breath often described as “ketone breath.”
  • Disease Related Bad Breath: Unusual breath odours, such as a metallic or ammonia-like smell, can be associated with certain medical conditions, like kidney disease, liver disease, or respiratory infections.
  • Fruity Breath: A fruity or sweet odour to the breath can be a sign of uncontrolled diabetes. This occurs due to the presence of ketones, which are produced when the body breaks down fats for energy.
  • Putrid or Foul-Smelling Breath: Extremely foul-smelling breath may be indicative of underlying dental or oral health issues, such as infected teeth, oral abscesses, or severe gum disease.

It’s important to identify the type of bad breath and its underlying cause to determine the most appropriate treatment.

How to Prevent Bad Breath

Preventing and treating bad breath involves addressing its underlying causes. One of the best ways to prevent bad breath is to maintain good oral hygiene, including brushing your teeth and tongue, and using floss and mouthwash regularly. You should also visit your dentist for regular check-ups and professional cleaning.

Other ways to prevent bad breath include:

  • Drinking plenty of water to keep your mouth moist and promote saliva production.
  • Quit smoking and avoid tobacco in any form.
  • Reduce consumption of strong-smelling foods, and rinse your mouth after eating them.
  • Chewing sugar-free gum or mints can temporarily mask bad breath and stimulate saliva production.
  • If bad breath is a symptom of an underlying medical condition, consult a healthcare professional for diagnosis and treatment.

When Should You See a Dentist or Doctor About Bad Breath?

If you are experiencing bad breath and it persists despite proper oral hygiene practices, you should seek medical attention from a dentist or a doctor.

Reasons to see your dentist include:

  • Chronic Bad Breath
  • Sudden Onset of Bad Breath
  • Associated Dental Problems
  • Dry Mouth
  • Suspected Medical Conditions
  • Persistent Halitosis Despite Dental Care
  • Changes in Breath Odour with Medications

It’s essential to differentiate between transient bad breath and persistent bad breath. If you are unsure about the cause of your bad breath or if it doesn’t improve with improved oral hygiene practices, book a consultation with our experienced team for a comprehensive evaluation and appropriate treatment.

Addressing the underlying cause is important for maintaining your overall oral and general health.



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Dr Henry Wong is a local dental graduate, having done his studies at the University of Queensland. He has had over 10 years of practical experience, providing a wide range of services in the various fields of dentistry. He has a strong interest in Orthodontics (braces) and has an affinity treating young patients. Henry regularly attends a range of continuing education courses, and is very much up to date with his continuing professional development requirements.   Dr Henry is a long term member of the ADA (Australian Dental Association). He has also been involved with RAWCS (Rotary Australia World Community Service), in a charity project that provides much needed dental treatment to villages in Nepal. He has also provided volunteer work in Brisbane through the National Dental Foundation.   Dr Henry enjoys spending time with his family and young daughter. They are often the reluctant subjects one of his other interests; photography. He likes to unwind by listening to comedy podcasts and tending to his growing collection of indoor plants.