If you don't brush and floss daily, particles of food remain in the mouth,
collecting bacteria, which can cause bad breath. Food that collects between the teeth, on
the tongue and around the gums can rot, leaving an unpleasant odor. Dentures that are not
cleaned properly can also harbor odor-causing bacteria and food particles.
One of the warning signs of periodontal (gum) disease is persistent bad breath or a bad
taste in the mouth. Periodontal disease is caused by plaque, the sticky, colorless film of
bacteria that constantly forms on teeth. The bacteria create toxins that irritate the
gums. In the advanced stage of the disease, the gums, bone and other structures that
support the teeth become damaged. With regular dental checkups, your dentist can detect
periodontal disease early.
Bad breath is also caused by dry mouth (xerostomia), which occurs when the flow of saliva
decreases. Saliva is necessary to cleanse the mouth and remove particles that may cause
odor. Dry mouth may be caused by various medications, salivary gland problems or
continuously breathing through the mouth.
Tobacco products cause bad breath, stain teeth, reduce one's ability to taste foods and
irritate gum tissues. Tobacco users are more likely to suffer from periodontal disease.
Bad breath may be the sign of a medical disorder, such as a local infection in the
respiratory tract (nose throat, windpipe, lungs), chronic sinusitis, postnasal drip,
chronic bronchitis, diabetes, gastrointestinal disturbance, liver or kidney ailment.
Eliminating periodontal disease and maintaining good oral health is essential to reducing
bad breath. Schedule regular dental visits for a professional cleaning and checkup. If you
think you have constant bad breath, keep a log of the foods you eat and make a list of
medications you take. Some medications may play a role in creating mouth odors.
Brush twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste to remove food debris and plaque. Brush your
tongue, too. Once a day, use floss or an interdental cleaner to clean between teeth. If
you wear removable dentures, take them out at night. Clean them thoroughly before
replacing them the next morning.
Mouthwashes are generally cosmetic and do not have a long-lasting effect on bad breath. If
you must constantly use a breath freshener to hide unpleasant mouth odor, see your
dentist. If you need extra help in controlling plaque, your dentist may recommend using a
special antimicrobial mouthrinse. A fluoride mouthrinse, used along with brushing and
flossing, can help prevent tooth decay.
Certain foods, such as garlic and onions, contribute to objectionable breath odor. Once
the food is absorbed into the bloodstream, it is transferred to the lungs, where it is
expelled. Brushing, flossing and mouthwash will only mask the odor temporarily. Odors
continue until the body eliminates the food. Dieters may develop unpleasant breath from