bad breathSooner or later everyone experiences the embarrassment of realizing they have bad breath, whether that’s in middle school, on a blind date, or meeting someone new. It’s not pleasant, but there are ways to combat bad breath or address the underlying causes of it. Let’s talk about them.

The official term for bad breath is halitosis. Halitus is Latin for “breath” and the -osis is a suffix denoting a condition. There are a number of ways the environment in your mouth can become malodorous, and not all of them are bad. If you eat something that people consider “smelly,” that smell will linger in your mouth (and other parts of your body) until the food has been fully digested. This would include things like garlic and sardines. If you like those foods, you’ll have to put up with a little smell. Gargling with mouthwash will only mask it temporarily.

Smoking is another common cause of bad breath. If you breathe in cigarette smoke, the smell will linger persistently. The only real solution for this kind of smell is to quit smoking.

As soon as you put any food in your mouth, it begins to chemically change and decompose. That’s what digestion is: the body must break down food into smaller components so that the nutrients it contains can be absorbed into the bloodstream in the small intestine. Some of those chemical changes can produce byproducts like gas. Usually this happens a little later in the process, but burping can produce odors too as gas buildup from the stomach is expelled through the mouth. There are supplements you can take to reduce gas and digestive distress, some of them, like fennel seeds, entirely natural. This is also not a dental issue. If your body doesn’t respond well to what you eat, the only real solution is to change your diet.

Where bad breath and oral health do intersect is when there is bacterial overgrowth in your mouth. Bacteria in the mouth always exists, and some of it is good bacteria that is responsible for one of the first steps in the digestive process. But bad bacteria will proliferate if you do not brush and floss regularly, including brushing your tongue.

The balanced environment of your mouth can also be affected by medical conditions like bronchitis, sinus infections, yeast infections, or diabetes. The underlying physical condition and/or the treatment can change how much saliva your mouth produces. If not enough saliva is produced, it cannot do the job it is supposed to: flush out bad bacteria and neutralize mouth acids.

Essentially, the best solution to bad breath is to improve your oral health or your overall health. This can be done with more regular brushing and flossing, dietary changes, or seeing a doctor to address other medical conditions. Next time we will discuss mouthwash as a solution and how helpful that is for people with bad breath.