Bad Breath Center

Bad Breath Causes and Risk Factors

What causes bad breath?
Sometimes the first sign of a disease shows up in the mouth and manifests as odor as you speak or breathe. This is because oral health is connected to many other health conditions beyond the mouth. Most bad breath originates in your mouth. In other cases, systemic infections can cause problems in other areas of your body. The causes of bad breath are numerous. They include:

Dental problems - Poor dental hygiene and periodontal disease can cause a buildup of bacteria and emit hydrogen sulfide vapors. If you don't brush and floss daily, plaque irritates gums (gingivitis) and can cause tooth decay. Eventually periodontitis worsens this problem - and your breath. Dentures that aren't cleaned regularly or don't fit properly can also house odor-causing bacteria and food particles.

Dieting - Dieters who fast for periods of time may develop unpleasant "fruity" breath from ketoacidosis, a breakdown of chemicals in the body.

Dry mouth - A dry mouth enables dead cells to accumulate on your tongue, gums and cheeks. These cells then decompose and cause odor. Dry mouth naturally occurs during sleep. It's what causes "morning breath." Dry mouth is even more of a problem if you sleep with your mouth open. Some medications as well as smoking can lead to a chronic dry mouth, as can a problem with your salivary glands.

Diseases - Systemic (bodywide) illnesses such as diabetes, liver disease, kidney disease, lung disease, sinus disease, reflux disease and others can cause bad breath. Chronic lung infections and lung abscesses can produce very foul breath. Some types of cancers and certain metabolic disorders can also cause a distinctive breath odor. Kidney failure can create urine-like odor, and liver failure may cause an odor described as "fishy." People with uncontrolled diabetes often emit fruity breath odor. Chronic reflux of stomach acids from the stomach (GERD) also has been associated with bad breath.

Food - The breakdown of food particles in and around your teeth can cause a foul odor or eating foods containing volatile oils (onions and garlic) can cause bad breath for as long as 72 hours after you've eaten them. After odor-creating foods are digested and pungent oils are absorbed into the bloodstream, they are carried to the lungs and are given off in your breath until the food is eliminated from your body.

Medications - Common drugs and medications also can affect breath odor.

Nose, mouth and throat conditions - Bad breath is also associated with sinus infections. Nasal discharge from the sinuses into the back of your throat can cause mouth odor. Likewise, throat infections can cause bad breath until they clear. Other illnesses such as bronchitis and other upper respiratory infections (which create odorous mucus) are other sources of bad breath. Foreign object lodged in the nose can cause persistent nasal discharge and a foul odor.

Psychiatric illness - Some people may believe they have bad breath, but others do not notice it. This is referred to as "pseudohalitosis."

Tobacco products - Smoking dries out the mouth and causes a typically unpleasant mouth odor. Tobacco users are also more likely to be diagnosed with periodontal disease, an additional source of bad breath.

Risk factors
Risk factors increase the likelihood of experiencing a disease or condition. Although risk factors may not be a direct cause of a particular disease, they seem to be associated with its development in some way. Your risk of gum disease, and thereby bad breath, is higher if you:

  • smoke
  • are diagnosed with diabetes or HIV/AIDS

Do you know how to identify the symptoms of bad breath? Continue reading our bad breath symptoms section for more information about symptoms of condition. Early identification and diagnosis is key to receiving the best treatment for acute or chronic bad breath symptoms.

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