Bad breath isn’t a pleasant experience for anyone. However, what you might not realize is the multitude of factors that can affect our breath. It’s not just those people whose oral hygiene routine is lacking that can be affected. Indeed, it has been suggested that roughly 25% of us suffer from bad breath at least on occasion.
If you’re concerned about friends and family members recoiling, and you’re confident that a recent dental check revealed no issues, then read on to discover some other factors you may want to consider…
What Causes Bad Breath?
The first question we need to answer is what typically causes bad breath. Here there are two common causes. Firstly, and most commonly, sulfur-producing bacteria in our mouths gets out of control, releasing unpleasant-smelling gases. Secondly, bad smells can come from far further inside, such as our stomachs after we’ve eaten too much garlic.
What is perhaps rather surprising is just how many factors can affect these two broad causes, as we’ll discover…
Your stomach is a seething bath of digestive juices and acid; perfect for breaking down the food you eat. In cases of heartburn, however, some of these acids work their way up the esophagus, leading to a burning sensation.
This release of acid isn’t just uncomfortable, however. It can also significantly affect the delicate balance of chemistry in our mouths and throats. This, in turn, can lead to an unpleasant metallic taste in the mouth, and questionable breath.
Fortunately, there are a number of effective solutions to heartburn, from lifestyle changes to doctor-prescribed medications.
Colds & Flus
One element that characteristics a nasty winter cold is a streaming, runny nose. As it turns out, this discharge is rich in protein; something that sulfur-producing bacteria just love to feed on.
So while you’re doing everything you can to breathe properly through your nose, the sulfur-producing bacteria are having the feast of their lives. The good news is that most people find that their breath resolves itself soon after their cold clears, as mucus production rates drop back to normal.
We know that eating spicy foods can give us questionable breath for some time afterward, however hunger can be almost as bad.
There are a number of reasons for this. Firstly, the saliva we naturally produce when eating also helps to keep our oral bacteria under control. In between meals this flow of saliva decreases, increasing the chances of questionable breath.
Additionally, in cases where we haven’t consumed enough calories (such as on ultra-low calorie diets or after a night of fasting), the body will sometimes burn body fat to make up for the calorific shortfall. While many dieters live for this fat-burning phase, it is not unusual for the body to release ketones as a by-product of fat metabolism. These ketones are then breathed out, giving us a fruity-smelling breath. It’s so common on carb-free diets that it has even been given the name “keto breath”.
Once again, a low carbs diet doesn’t necessarily have to lead to long-term bad breath. Many people find that their bodies adapt to such a diet, with their breath improving within a few weeks. In cases where a natural adjustment doesn’t happen, appreciate that such an issue is only temporary while fasting, and can be covered with an effective mouthwash in the meantime.
Interestingly, bad breath can arise from all sorts of medical conditions. Of these, liver problems are generally the most likely to contribute to questionable breath, though a range of possibilities can contribute.
The message here is that if you’ve considered every other option listed here and are still at a loss as to why your breath isn’t as fresh as you’d like, it is a very smart idea to consult your doctor.
Ask your doctor to carry out a full physical exam; you might be surprised when a cause is located, and how quickly it can be resolved.
Wait a minute, isn’t mouthwash meant to prevent bad breath? Well yes, it is, but there’s a problem. A dry mouth can be a major source of halitosis. This is one reason why drinking alcohol can make your breath smell; the lack of saliva your mouth creates lets bacteria flourish.
Surprisingly, some mouthwashes can have a similar impact, filled as they are with alcohol. Studies have shown that many alcohol-containing types of mouthwash really only freshen the breath temporarily thanks to their minty flavoring.
Soon afterward, however, the effect declines.
In case you’re worried, switching from an alcohol-containing wash to an antibacterial alternative without alcohol can quickly remedy this situation.
Falling pregnant exposes the female body to a list of physical and hormonal changes quite unrivaled in other times of life. From aching backs to late-night food cravings it’s little wonder that pregnancy can also affect the breath.
The causes of halitosis during pregnancy are surprisingly diverse. Firstly, hormonal changes can affect the natural flow of saliva, allowing bacteria to grow in the mouth. Secondly, demineralization is not uncommon, as your body removes calcium from your teeth to build your baby’s skeleton.
Lastly, if we’re honest, that late-night snacking can also have an impact, increasing the chances of minuscule food particles remaining in the mouth, and acting as a rich source of nutrition to odor-causing bacteria.
Most of us know the importance of brushing our teeth and flossing regularly to maintain our smiles. However, what many people don’t realize is just what a major impact your tongue can have on breath scent.
Indeed, research suggests that between 50% and 90% of halitosis can be traced back to residues on the tongue.
If you’re one of the many people who rarely give much thought to their tongue then investing in a tongue scraper, and using it regularly, can be a highly effective strategy.
As a side note, very few people can smell their own breath, and your partner is unlikely to try and broach the subject with you. If you are at all concerned about bad breath then one of the most reliable tests is to scrape the back of your tongue with a teaspoon, then smell the spoon. If the smell makes you swoon then a thorough tongue-brushing may well be in order.
As you can see, assuming you’re regularly attending your dentist and are confident your teeth are in top condition, there are still a whole host of factors that can cause halitosis. The key to keeping your breath fresh is as simple as identifying the likely causes and then checking them off one by one.
In most cases the causes, while surprising, are reasonably easy to solve once you know what to look for.