We all try so hard to prevent bad breath, what with our gums, sprays, and mouthwashes. And yet that dreaded day always comes. A friend, family member, or date leans in (or, um, away) and says "Want a mint? An extra toothbrush?" You get the idea.
Of course, this is an utterly mortifying situation that everyone dreads. But what's worse? The mere suspicion that you're offending everyone with your mouth. When that's the case, you do the old breath-into-the-hand maneuver, or ask a very trusted friend for their opinion. It can become quite the problem.
And yet bad breath, or "halitosis" as it's called in the medical community, really isn't that big of a deal. Usually, all of this drama is caused by some simple bacteria buildup in the mouth. The bacteria give off noxious odors or gases that smell like sulfur or other gross things, according to Pamela Babcock on WebMD.com. And really all you have to do to prevent it is brush and floss daily. That, and going to the dentist on the regular. Other times, however, bad breath can be a sign of an underlying medical problem, so it's worth getting yourself checked out.
Whether it's bacteria that's to blame, or something else, here are some reasons you might be having bad breath.
1. You Ate Something Pungent, And Now It's Here To Stay
So you just wolfed down a spicy burrito, and already more than one person has offered you a stick of gum. But sometimes no amount of minty cover ups will do the trick, especially if you had a big dose of garlic or onions.
That's because pungent foods don't just affect your mouth. They start to permeate your whole body, making them impossible to mask. According to WebMD.com, "As foods are digested and absorbed into the bloodstream, they are eventually carried to your lungs and given off in your breath ... The odor will not go away completely until the foods have passed through your body." Bummer.
2. It's Been Awhile Since You Last Brushed
The most common cause of breath is poor oral hygiene, according to health website NHS.uk. That's because bacteria build up on the teeth, tongue, and gums and form delightful things like plaque, gum disease, and tooth decay. And when all that bacteria combines with saliva to break down food, it results in an bad smelling gas (and bad smelling breath). Frequent flossing and brushing also dislodges any leftovers you've got wedged between your pearly whites, which if left unattended can sit there and fester.
In short, it can get gross inside your mouth real quick. So brush and floss daily, scrape your tongue, and have regular dental visits to prevent things from getting out of control.
3. You're Suffering From A Case Of Dry Mouth
If you've ever gone a day without much water, then you probably noticed how your mouth got all dry and smelly. That's because staying hydrated, and having a good flow of saliva going at all times, is necessary to ward off halitosis. As noted on EMedicineHealth.com, "... [saliva] is a vital part of the digestive process and removes odor-causing particles in the mouth. Also called xerostomia, dry mouth may be caused by medications, breathing through the mouth, or salivary gland problems." To stave off bad breath, make sure you sip water throughout the day.
4. You Have A Long-Lingering Sinus Infection
When you're sick, there's all sorts of bacteria and goo lingering in the back of your throat. So it's really no wonder your breath will be less than fresh. But the smell can get extra bad if you get a sinus infection, which can lead to a smelly condition called "sinus breath." As Thomas P. Connelly, D.D.S., noted on HuffingtonPost.com, "[When sinuses become inflamed, it causes] the mucus to stop circulating and instead build up. This is a rich environment for bacteria to grow and multiply, and can result in a foul odor."
5. Morning Breath Has Reared Its Ugly Head
If you have a mouth, or have ever dated anyone with a mouth, then you know the joys of morning breath. It happens during the night when bacteria start to accumulate, according to EMedicineHealth.com. So when you wake up and yawn, everything is unleashed. Very unpleasant indeed.
6. Acid Reflux Is Messing Up The Works
If you have acid reflux, or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), you may notice a bad smell bubbling its way up from the depths of your stomach. This can happen when food doesn't move efficiently out of the stomach, starts to decay there, and then contributes to bad breath and GERD. Some people with GERD may even regurgitate small amounts of undigested food, which can also cause bad breath, according to Regina Boyle Wheeler on EverydayHealth.com.
7. You're A Smoker
You might think the actual smell of cigarettes is to blame in this case, but that's only the tip of the iceberg. Smoking also causes other mouth-related health problems that can lead to bad breath, such as gum disease. Just another reason to consider quitting.
8. Some Tonsil Stones Are Lurking In The Darkness
When it comes to gross-smelling things, tonsil stones, or tonsilloliths, pretty much take the cake. These putrid deposits are created when bacteria, dead skin cells, and mucous gather in the tonsils, according to WebMD. The ingredients broil together to create a calcified deposit, or "stone," which then sits in the back of your throat, wreaking havoc on your breath.
9. You Have An Underlying Medical Problem
At this point, the question is really "what doesn't cause bad breath?" Because, as it turns out, there's a pretty long list of medical conditions that list "bad breath" as a symptom. These include respiratory tract infections, such as pneumonia or bronchitis; postnasal drip; diabetes; chronic acid reflux; and liver or kidney problems, according to WebMD.com.
Bad breath may be embarrassing, but there's generally an easy fix. Grab some gum, brush your teeth, clear up any underlying health problems, and you'll be feeling fresher than ever.
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