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Dr. Gerald Regni Jr & Associates

The Many Causes of Halitosis (Chronic Bad Breath)

By Gerald Regni, DMD on February 29, 2016

Humans have been aware of bad breath or halitosis for centuries. In fact, the ancient Greek and Roman authors discussed it in their writings and it is even mentioned in the Talmud or Jewish ceremonial and civil law. Supposedly, the founder of Islam and renowned prophet Mohammed expelled a member of his congregation because his breath smelled like garlic. Suffice it to say individuals have continually searched for a cure on a global basis.

What causes Halitosis?

From a medical and technical standpoint, chronic bad breath or halitosis is caused by the release of specific compounds into the atmosphere as we exhale. These are comprised of hydrogen sulfide (from sulfur) and methyl marcaptan. However, the fact of the matter is that no combination of gum and/or mints will cure this condition. All they do is mask it and provide a temporary solution to the problem at best. To eliminate bad breath or halitosis, you have to establish what is causing it.

Primary Causes of Halitosis

Bad or foul-smelling breath is typically caused by one or a number of different elements with the most common cause being food particles that are missed when brushing and flossing. Trapped food particles between your teeth begin rotting and over time, it starts to release offensive odors as you exhale. This is why regular check-ups with your dentist are so important. Even if you are diligent about brushing and flushing on a daily basis, this will not prevent the condition from occurring in some individuals.

Most cases of chronic bad breath start in the person’s mouth. Furthermore, there are a number of causes including:

  • Acid reflux
  • Certain diseases such as diabetes
  • Dry mouth (xerostomia)
  • Garlic, onion, and other smelly food particles getting trapped between your teeth
  • Gum or periodontal disease
  • Nicotine from tobacco use
  • Poor oral hygiene
  • Respiratory tract infections
  • Severe dieting
Typically, dairy products (cheese, milk, etc.) and odoriferous foods (garlic, onions, etc.) have the tendency to leave an unpleasant odor. As these foods are digesting, they begin releasing offensive gases for up to 24 hours after you have consumed them. While brushing your teeth (and tongue) twice daily and flossing is the recommended course of action, it is essential that you schedule regular visits to the dentist for a thorough check-up and cleaning. You can start noticing when the odor is stronger and avoid eating those specific food items.

Keep in mind that your dentist is the only one who can determine if poor oral hygiene is causing your halitosis or if it is a more serious physical condition. If you’re concerned about having bad breath or halitosis, talk to your dentist about it. They may be able to identify what is causing the problem and develop a dental plan for treatment that is tailored to your specific needs.

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