Are My Teeth Causing Bad Breath?

Why you should talk to your dentist about halitosis

Are Your Teeth Causing Bad Breath?
Dental problems are often the cause of bad breath. GettyImages

You know that person at work who you dread having conversations with because of the unpleasant odor that you can't avoid when they speak? How can he not realize his breath is so bad?  Wait a second. There is no person at work with bad breath?  Then maybe it’s you.  Many people are not aware that they have bad breath, also known as halitosis, but most are just not sure why they have it and what to do about it.

Research shows that up to 50% of people suffer from bad breath.  Bad breath can impact your professional social and romantic lives in many negative ways.  It can also end with the complete loss of self-confidence in dealing with other people.

Studies also show that 90% of cases of bad breath are of dental origin

Dental related causes of bad breath:

  • Some foods are known to cause bad breath such as garlic and onions. Drinking coffee and alcohol can have the same effect. Usually, the bad breath experienced with food or drink is limited to the hours after ingesting them.
  • Smoking
  • Poor oral hygiene tends to cause more consistent bad breath. Not brushing your teeth will obviously result in strong halitosis. Most people do brush their teeth regularly but what they may not realize is causing their ongoing bad breath is that they are not flossing. Leaving food between the teeth can create unpleasant odors.
  • Gum disease (also known as periodontal disease) can create intense halitosis as there are active bacteria infecting your mouth and releasing odors
  • Sinus problems which can cause fluids to drip from the back of the nose into the mouth
  • Having a dry mouth can also cause halitosis
  • Sleep apnea leading to nighttime mouth breathing
  • Tongue coat
  • Unclean dentures
  • Oral cancer
  • Throat infections

However bad breath may stem from deeper health issues including:

  • Acid and bile reflux from the stomach
  • Kidney failure
  • Diabetes
  • Metabolic dysfunction
  • Liver disease

Step number 1: Book an appointment with your dentist

The first step to investigating the cause of your bad breath is to eliminate the presence of oral disease that is often causing bad breath. 

If it is easy to identify the cause of your bad breath, such as smoking or a diet rich in certain foods, then the answer is to remove the cause and the result will be noticeable within a few days. If you cannot identify the cause, then a visit to your dentist will be very helpful. Their area of specialty is the mouth and they can offer solutions for your problem. Some causes of halitosis can be very serious and need treatment immediately such as gum disease or a dry mouth. These oral problems can lead to the destruction or even loss of teeth if not managed properly.

How can your dentist cure your bad breath?

  • Clean your teeth to give you a good base from which to start your new oral hygiene regime of brushing and flossing. 
  • Including tongue cleaning into your oral hygiene regime
  • Advise you on products to help reduce dry mouth
  • Investigate possible gum disease and treat it
  • Refer you to your doctor or ear, nose and throat specialist if they suspect a sinus problem

Step Number 2: See your general practitioner

If your dental examination comes up clean, then you may have underlying health conditions that are causing bad breath.  It’s important that you see your general practitioner for an investigation of underlying conditions that may cause bad breath. 


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Pratibha, P. K., and G. S. Bhat. "Oral malodor: a review of the literature."American Dental Hygienists Association 80.3 (2006): 8-8.

Oliveira-Neto, Jeronimo M., Sandra Sato, and Vinícius Pedrazzi. "How to deal with morning bad breath: A randomized, crossover clinical trial." Journal of Indian Society of Periodontology 17.6 (2013): 757.

Bollen, Curd ML, and Thomas Beikler. "Halitosis: the multidisciplinary approach." International journal of oral science 4.2 (2012): 55-63.

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