Causes Of Bad Breath

Dr. Christopher Li Etobicoke - Li Family Dental

By Dr. Christopher Li

February 23, 2022

bad breath, brushing, dental care, flossing, halitosis, oral care

If you are self-conscious about your breath after eating garlic or raw onions, popping a few mints in your mouth or chewing minty gum can help freshen your breath. However, if you find you have bad breath all the time, you might have “halitosis.” In this case, there are many factors that can contribute to chronic bad breath.

Although poor dental hygiene can certainly be a potential cause, it is not the only possibility. Visiting your family dentist can help you find a solution that works. Here we look at underlying dental and health issues that could be causing your bad breath.

What Is Halitosis?


Halitosis is an oral health problem that causes your breath to smell bad. It is not necessarily caused by the food you eat or forgetting to brush your teeth, but instead can be related to underlying health or dental issues. The good news is that once the cause of the bad breath is found, your dentist can help stop it. In many cases, it is quite preventable.

What Are The Most Common Causes Of Bad Breath?


If you find you suffer from bad breath all the time, there are several potential causes:

Your Diet: Although all of us will suffer from bad breath when we eat foods such as garlic and onions, if you tend to eat these foods often, it can lead to ongoing halitosis. This is because when you eat foods that are strong-smelling, they are absorbed into your bloodstream and until it is completely processed, the odours remain on your breath. For people who enjoy these foods once in a while, usually by the next day, the smell is gone. However, if you tend to eat these foods frequently, the food remains in your body, continuing to cause bad breath.

A Poor Oral Health Regime: Poor oral hygiene that does not include regular brushing, flossing and dental exams allows food debris to remain in your mouth, encouraging the growth of bacteria. As well, food debris can actually rot in your mouth, which is equal to the smell found in your kitchen garbage compost. Yuck. When you brush and floss regularly and see your dentist for regular dental cleanings and checkups, your teeth, gums and tongue are less likely to carry debris, bacteria and rotten food particles that make your breath stink.

Unclean Dentures: Just like poor oral health regimes, when your dentures are not properly cared for the debris and bacteria lead to bad breath.

Tongue Bacteria: Although you can brush the front of your tongue as part of your oral health care, in some cases you could have a certain type of bacteria living further back on your tongue that can create bad breath. These bacteria smell like sulfur when it interacts with amino acids.

Gum Disease: Gum disease causes both a bad taste and bad smell leading to bad breath.

Dry Mouth: Known as Xerostomia, dry mouth occurs when you can’t produce enough saliva. Your mouth naturally cleanses itself using saliva to rinse away bacteria and debris. When you can’t produce enough, it leads to bad breath. There are several causes of dry mouth including medications, breathing through your mouth, and disorders of your salivary glands.

Using Tobacco: When you smoke or chew tobacco, not only does the tobacco itself cause bad breath, but it also increases the risk for conditions that cause bad breath such as gum disease, deadened sense of taste and even oral cancer.

Keep in mind that you might not realize you have bad breath. However, if you have a constant bad taste in your mouth, this is usually also a sign you have bad breath.

What Health Conditions Can Cause Bad Breath?


There are several health conditions that can cause bad breath, including:

  • Respiratory, nose, lung, or windpipe infections
  • Chronic bronchitis or sinusitis
  • Postnasal drip
  • Diabetes
  • Some gastrointestinal disorders
  • Liver or kidney disorders
  • Imbalanced oral microbiome

This is why it is so important to speak to your dentist when you are experiencing either a bad taste in your mouth or halitosis. It could be a sign of a serious underlying health condition.

What Should I Do If I Have Bad Breath All The Time?


If you feel you are experiencing bad breath all the time, speak to your dentist as soon as possible. They can perform an exam to try to find the cause. Because halitosis is often a result of poor oral health or a dental infection, they are the best healthcare professionals to help provide a diagnosis. They will also review changes to your health, the medications you are taking, and lifestyle choices that can also be causing the problem if they don’t find a dental-related issue. In some cases, if the cause is not diagnosed, they will refer you to a specialist or your doctor.

Treatment For Halitosis


Treatment will of course depend on the diagnosis or cause of the bad breath. The most common treatments would include:

  • Improved oral health care and instruction
  • Periodontal cleaning for gum disease
  • Antimicrobial mouth rinse for issues such as extensive plaque buildup
  • Tongue brushing at home to help remove bacteria

In the case of an underlying health condition, the treatment will be based on the diagnosis of that specific condition.

How To Prevent Bad Breath


You can help prevent bad breath by brushing and flossing twice a day. If you find you still experience bad breath after brushing and flossing try brushing your tongue, cheeks, and the roof of your mouth to remove bacteria hiding there. For denture wearers, be sure you clean them properly every night and before putting them in your mouth each morning. Your dentist can recommend the right cleaners to help kill odour-causing bacteria.

Smokers should quit smoking, not just to have fresher breath, but also to reduce the risk for serious health conditions. Improving your diet with healthier snacks like fresh carrots and apples can also help keep your saliva flowing. Sugar-free gum and candies keep your breath minty fresh and also help you produce more saliva.

Remember, your dental checkups are very important to help you avoid infections and gum disease that cause bad breath. As well, your dental team will notice bad breath during the exam and can look into the issue to determine the cause.

Give us a call at 416-232-2033 or request an appointment by clicking here.


Dr. Christopher Li

About the author

Doctor Christopher Li, DDS
Dr. Chris, as he is affectionately known, is a licensed dentist with over 20 years experience. His caring personality makes even the most tentative person at ease. Patients are constantly commenting about how Dr. Chris is incredible at delivering pain-free freezing, and how he has an amazing chair-side manner.  Dr. Chris loves sharing information with his patients and everyone who has teeth about how to care for their teeth, avoid tooth decay, and the treatments available to help them overcome their tooth pain or other dental issues so they can enjoy life and food to its fullest!

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