Battling Bad Breath

Do you deal with halitosis? Here’s what may be causing it.

It’s an embarrassing problem you’re often unaware of until someone’s brave enough to tell you. Bad breath can end a conversation, put a romantic moment on hold, or make the people around you hold their breath. Not sure if you have bad breath? Ask a close family member to tell you honestly. You don’t want to offend anyone by your stinky breath, and it’s hard to avoid bad breath if you don’t know what’s causing it. It’s estimated that one out of four people suffers from halitosis (a.k.a. bad breath), but there is some good news. It’s usually simple to remedy.

Read on to learn the top causes of bad breath and what to do about it.

If a man can make me laugh and stimulate me intellectually, then I wouldn’t mind if he was four feet eight inches with a huge belly. The only thing that would put me off is bad breath—but even that can be fixed. A bad personality isn’t so easy to fix. – Olga Kurylenko
Poor Oral Hygiene

You know the rules: brush twice a day and floss daily. But are you taking these steps each and every day? The main culprit of smelly breath is poor dental hygiene. When you eat, bacteria in your mouth helps break down food. This process produces sulfur compounds that smell, often really bad. Brushing and flossing help remove the plaque (bacteria) that builds up on your teeth and tongue from leftover food particles. Skimping on brushing and flossing can cause pockets of plaque to develop between your teeth and gums, where odors hide.

Certain Foods

You love that spicy salsa, but you’ll be paying for it later with bad breath. Garlic, onions, and certain spices are known triggers for stinky breath. The compounds in these foods enter your blood stream and come out when you exhale. Drinks like coffee and alcohol also have the reputation for causing bad breath because they encourage the growth of bacteria in your mouth and dry out your mouth by slowing the production of saliva. Dairy products, orange juice, sodas, and meat are also known halitosis triggers. So eat and drink wisely!


Want foul-smelling breath? Then smoke or chew tobacco. In addition to bad breath you’ll also likely develop gum disease, which only adds to your problem.

Crash Diets

In your quest to lose weight, you may be sabotaging your breath. Low-calorie diets and those that completely cut carbohydrates, like the Adkins diet, are known to cause halitosis. As your body burns fat for energy rather than carbs, it enters a state of ketosis and produces chemicals called ketones that cause bad breath. Depending on your perspective, you may take the bad breath as a good sign—your diet is working! Then again, you may bemoan the fact that no one wants to get near your mouth. If you’re dedicated to your crash diet, plan to keep some breath mints on hand.

Dry Mouth

When your mouth isn’t producing enough saliva or you’re not drinking enough water, your mouth dries out. Dry mouth is a leading cause of bad breath, because saliva works to actively help wash away the bacteria that produce odors. Several things lead to dry mouth including xerostomia (a disease where your saliva glands don’t function properly), sleeping with your mouth open, dehydration, or certain medications.

Infections and Illness

A sixth reason some people have bad breath is an infection in the mouth, nose, throat, or sinuses. Wounds from oral surgery, tooth decay, mouth sores, gum disease, tonsil stones, and congestion can all cause unpleasant and unwanted odors. Certain cancers, metabolic disorders, and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) are also associated with strange breath smells.

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