The health conditions that cause bad breath

Bad breath can be embarrassing for all involved and for some, it's caused by other health problems or even medication. Source: Pexels

Bad breath is never nice for anyone involved and it can cause significant social and self-esteem problems for the person living with the unfortunate condition.

While chewing gum or popping breath mints can be a temporary solution, many find the minty-fresh doesn’t last long and they’re back to finding other ways of masking the unpleasant odour.

Speaking to Starts at 60, dentist and Philips Sonicare Ambassador Luke Cronin explained that bad breath can be caused by a lot more than simply not brushing your teeth.

“Persistent bad breath or Halitosis can have a huge impact on your social life and self-esteem, but it can also indicate some serious oral and general health issues,” he said.

Bad breath is usually caused by bacteria that live in the mouth and feed on proteins humans consume. As the bacteria break down, the proteins release a waste product called sulphur, which is what actually causes bad breath.

For some, bad breath can also be a sign of more serious health issues. This includes everything from gum disease and periodontal disease to other physiological conditions including liver and kidney disease, diabetes, as well as gastrointestinal issues such as reflux.

Certain medications can indirectly cause bad breath by contributing to dry mouth, while others contain ingredients that break down in the body and release chemicals that travel to your breath.  Other health conditions, such as respiratory tract infections, can also cause bad breath. 

For most people, the best way to avoid bad breath is to keep bacteria under control.

“Bacteria is kept under control with good oral hygiene that includes brushing twice daily and flossing once a day,” Cronin explained. “Poor habits lead to a build-up of plaque and food particles on and between the teeth that bacteria feed on, creating unpleasant, strong and persistent bad breath.”

“It’s important that you see your dentist if you are experiencing bad breath so they can identify, treat and eliminate any oral health causes,” Cronin said. “Your dentist may refer you to your GP if they believe further investigation is required.”

Similarly, it’s always important to discuss any changes in your oral health with a health professional and to ask a GP or pharmacist of any potential side effects of taking medication. Equally, there are other small and simple things people can do to not only prevent bad breath, but to keep their mouth as young as possible for as long as possible.

Even in older age, regular six-month dentist check-ups are recommended, as is brushing twice daily and flossing once a day. Electronic flossers are quite common and as Cronin points out, can remove the majority of plaque that can cause bad breath and other dental problems.

Drinking fluids at least six times a day is also important, even if you’re not feeling thirsty. This ensures the mouth is moist and doesn’t get dry, while rinsing the mouth with water after drinking tea or coffee can reduce the discolouration of the tooth’s enamel.

Similarly, it’s important to know that mouthwash isn’t always the best answer to bad breath or dry mouth.

“Some ingredients in mouthwash can contribute to dry mouth,” Cronin said. “Unless otherwise directed, do not use mouthwash or swabs containing alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, sodium bicarbonate or lemon and glycerine.”

If concerned about dental health, always speak to a health professional or dentist.

What is the best way to prevent bad breath? Is it something you’ve ever had to overcome?

Important information: The information provided on this website is of a general nature and information purposes only. It does not take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. It is not personalised health advice and must not be relied upon as such. Before making any decisions about your health or changes to medication, diet and exercise routines you should determine whether the information is appropriate in terms of your particular circumstances and seek advice from a medical professional.

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