Bad breath happens to everyone at some point, and research suggests that between 25% and 50% of people are regularly affected. Known medically as halitosis, bad breath is best tackled by addressing the cause rather than simply disguising the problem with breath fresheners.
There are three types of halitosis:
Most bad breath is due to poor oral hygiene, food or drink, or dehydration, but sometimes it can be a sign of an underlying health problem. The possible causes are wide-ranging and include:
Underlying medical conditions can also cause bad breath. These range from short-term infections to long-term or serious problems, such as diabetes.
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Sometimes, bad breath has an underlying medical cause such as:
You may not notice you have bad breath as you will be used to your own smell. One way to find out is to ask a close friend or family member if your breath has an unpleasant smell. Alternatively, you can lick the inside of your wrist, wait for it to dry and then smell the area you licked. If it smells unpleasant, you most likely have bad breath.
If you think you have bad breath, first see your dentist. They can check for signs of tooth decay, gum disease and infections, and can spot signs of some serious conditions such as mouth cancer. They may recommend:
To determine possible causes, your GP may ask you about other symptoms you have and look for other causes if your dentist cannot find a cause. This may involve:
Treatments vary widely, depending on the cause. Here are some of the most common solutions for getting rid of bad breath:
Good oral hygiene routine
This will involve:
Lifestyle changes may include:
Other treatments may include:
What causes bad breath even after brushing?
Bad breath even after brushing may be caused by a variety of different medical conditions, including:
Crash diets or low-carbohydrate diets can also cause bad breath, even after brushing. As a first port of call, see your dentist to find out the cause of your bad breath. If they cannot diagnose the problem, they may refer you to your GP for further examination.
What is bad breath a sign of?
Bad breath is not usually a sign of anything serious and in most cases, is normal. It may occur:
However, in some cases, bad breath may be a sign of an underlying medical problem, such as an infection of your mouth, nose, lungs or throat, diabetes, or a gastrointestinal, kidney or liver problem. Less commonly, it could be a sign of certain cancers or Sjögren’s syndrome.
If you are concerned about your bad breath, first see your dentist. They may refer you to your GP if they cannot find the cause.
How can I permanently get rid of bad breath?
Most people experience bad breath at some point in their lives and in most cases, this is normal. However, if you have persistent bad breath, even with good oral hygiene, you may have an underlying medical condition (eg acid reflux, Helicobacter pylori infection, uncontrolled or undiagnosed diabetes), which will need treatment to get rid of your bad breath. The treatment will depend on the specific cause of your bad breath. See your GP to get a diagnosis and receive appropriate treatment.
Can bad breath come from your lungs?
Yes, bad breath can come from your lungs if you have a lung infection. This can cause inflammation and the production of phlegm or pus in your lungs. Coughing up the phlegm or pus can cause bad breath.
What does a rotten tooth smell like?
A rotten tooth, or tooth decay, causes a foul smell, sometimes described as a rotten egg smell. Tooth decay is a serious condition and you should see your dentist for treatment.
What foods help with bad breath?
Foods rich in vitamin C protect your gums and mouth from bacteria that release chemicals, which cause bad breath. Chewing sugar-free gum can also combat bad breath as this increases the flow of saliva in your mouth to help clear out food debris. Similarly, drinking water helps clear out food debris and also increases saliva production.