The number-one cause of bad breath is bacteria, which always exist in the mouth. Dr. Claudia C. Cotca says, “There are Between 500–1,000 types of bacteria in our mouths that we may use for metabolic breakdown, some of which don’t need oxygen to survive. When that’s the case, these bacteria live well in the pockets of the gums and on the tongue and thrive and multiply if left unchecked, which can lead to malodor in the mouth.”
Fresh breath is partially due to a healthy quantity and quality of saliva. Saliva contains oxygen, which counteracts bad breath. When the concentration of saliva changes, it affects how you break down food that may be lingering in the mouth.
Poor Oral Hygiene
Brushing twice a day and flossing daily are key to preventing diseases that cause bad breath. “Gum and periodontal disease can occur from poor oral hygiene,” says Fort Washington, PA, prosthodontist Glenn J. Wolfinger, DMD.
Foods that are more pungent in odor like onions and garlic can “stick” in the body and mouth as they are broken down. Foods with strong odors are carried to the lungs (after being absorbed into the bloodstream) and can cause bad breath for up to 72 hours after consumption.
Systemic Conditions and Changes to the Body
“Bad breath can be a by-product of a shift in body chemistry, dietary changes, medication and/or a manifestation of disease,” says Dr. Cotca. Diabetes, cancer, the common cold, respiratory infections and acid reflux can cause it.
Problems In the Stomach
Problems in the GI tract can cause foul smelling breath. When this is the case, there tends to be more bad bacteria than good bacteria in the gut.
According to Dr. Cotca, an uneven bite, unbeknownst to many, can contribute to bad breath. “It can put stress on certain teeth and make them more predisposed to movement. With movement, bacteria migrate and colonization around the teeth can occur.”
Poor-Fitting Crowns and Veneers
It’s not the restoration itself that can cause bad breath, but if they don’t fit the tooth properly and allow a gap between the restoration and the tooth, plaque and tartar can easily accumulate underneath it.
What a White Tongue Means
If you notice a white film or residue on your tongue, it’s your body’s way of telling you that you have a buildup of bacteria and, most likely, bad breath. “Anything that’s white or yellow on the tongue is nothing more than a buildup of bacteria and volatile sulfur compounds,” says Dr. Cotca. Supersmile Ripple Edge Tounge Cleaner, $4, supersmile.com