What Your Chronic Bad Breath Is Trying to Tell You

Aug 01, 2023
What Your Chronic Bad Breath Is Trying to Tell You
Chronic bad breath often originates in your mouth. But in 10%-20% of people, bad breath is the symptom of a health condition unrelated to your dental hygiene. Keep reading to learn the possible causes of bad breath.

Everyone occasionally has bad breath (halitosis), usually after eating strong foods like garlic or onions. But sometimes, bad breath lingers or lasts a long time. That’s when it’s often a message alerting you to a possible health problem.

In 80%-90% of people, the underlying problem originates in their mouth. The rest of the time, bad breath is the symptom of a health problem elsewhere in your body.

Most people don’t notice their own bad breath and tend to laugh it off when someone else points out the problem. Still, it’s best not to ignore it because it may signal an oral health condition like gum disease that needs professional dental care to stop it from getting worse.

At Litchfield Dental Care, our family dentistry team can determine the cause of your halitosis and recommend a treatment plan to restore fresh-smelling breath. Here, they explore the four top causes of bad breath.

1. Poor oral hygiene

An unclean mouth is one of the top causes of bad breath. Poor dental hygiene lets plaque stick to your teeth — and plaque is home to bacteria. 

In addition to causing tooth decay, bacteria are a top cause of bad breath. As bacteria in your mouth feed on protein particles, they produce volatile sulfur compounds, which cause the odors responsible for bad breath.

You can eliminate this type of bad breath by rinsing vigorously after eating to remove food remnants, brushing twice daily, flossing at least once daily, and using a tongue scraper. Tongue scrapers eliminate bacteria and debris from the crevices in your tongue.

Preventive dentistry — scheduling a checkup every six months — is also an essential part of keeping your breath fresh. Plaque that remains in your mouth longer than a few days hardens into tartar, which also harbors bacteria and is impossible to remove with brushing. 

During your dental checkups, we use specialized tools to remove plaque and tartar, keeping your mouth bacteria-free and giving you fresh breath.

2. Smoking tobacco products

Tobacco products give you bad breath by causing a dry mouth and increasing the production of volatile sulfur compounds. Smoking also increases your risk of developing gum disease, which is a major contributor to bad breath.

3. Conditions in your mouth

Two problems inside your mouth commonly contribute to bad breath: gum disease and dry mouth. Both conditions need a prompt dental evaluation. Early treatment stops both conditions from causing serious problems. Dry mouth leads to infections, tooth decay, and gum disease, while gum disease can progress to cause tooth loss.

Gum disease (periodontal disease)

Gum disease multiplies your risk for bad breath. Plaque and tartar cause gum disease and harbor halitosis-producing bacteria. At the same time, inflamed gum tissues produce additional volatile sulfur compounds.

Dry mouth (xerostomia)

Your mouth uses saliva to limit bacterial growth and remove debris and food particles. Bacteria thrive and chronic bad breath develops when saliva production decreases.

You can develop dry mouth due to medications, cancer therapy, diabetes, autoimmune diseases, and smoking tobacco products. Snoring or sleeping with your mouth open also gives you a dry mouth.

4. Conditions beyond your mouth

Your bad breath may be the symptom of an underlying health condition. A few examples include:

  • Diabetes
  • Sinus infections
  • Postnasal drip
  • Chronic bronchitis
  • Stomach disorders
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  • Liver disease
  • Kidney disease

If we rule-out all possible dental causes of bad breath, we refer you to your primary care physician to identify a possible bodywide condition.

You don’t need to go through your days worried or embarrassed about bad breath. Instead, call Litchfield Dental Care or book an appointment online to get treatment targeting the cause of the problem. We’re conveniently located in Litchfield Park, Arizona.