Bad Breath (Halitosis)

Bad breath (clinically termed halitosis) is most commonly the result of poor dental hygiene and can be worsened by certain habits such as smoking or tobacco use. Consumption of odorous foods such as onions, garlic, coffee, alcohol, dairy products, orange juice, and soda can also contribute to bad breath.

However, other lesser known causes of bad breath may also stem from underlying health problems.

Credit: BLS

Statistics about Bad Breath

According to the Bad Breath Institute, between 35 and 45 percent of people in the world suffer from bad breath at some point during their day.

In America alone, 80 million people spend over $10 billion on oral hygiene products (mints, gum, mouthwashes, toothpaste, etc.) to combat bad breath each year.

Bad breath sufferers are 60% more likely to suffer from stress, while 57% of bad breath sufferers report feelings of depression due to their condition.

Bad Breath & Oral Hygiene

While only your doctor or dentist can determine the cause and treatment of your bad breath, there are measures you can take to combat halitosis. Good oral hygiene practices and visiting a dentist every six months can dramatically reduce the risk of tooth decay, gum disease, unsightly plaque build-up and tonsil stone formation (tonsilloliths). In addition, regularly brushing teeth and using a non-alcoholic mouthwash to prevent oral anaerobic bacteria build-up in between dental visits will help keep breath consistently smelling fresh and tasting clean.

Brushing one’s teeth at least twice a day, preferably in the morning and before going to bed, effectively removes bacteria that can rapidly accumulate on teeth. When oral hygiene practices aren’t followed, this bacteria will harden into a destructive biofilm called plaque that contributes to chronic bad breath, gum disease, and tooth decay. This biofilm is composed of millions of bacteria directly responsible for chronic and embarrassing bad breath.

Causes of Bad Breath

Persistent bad breath may be a warning sign of either long term or underlying health issues including:

  • Poor dental hygiene – not brushing or flossing frequently enough
  • Improperly cleaned and/or fitted dentures or braces that trap food particles and bacteria
  • Smoking or chewing tobacco-based products
  • Infections in the mouth – such as gum disease, which is caused by the buildup of plaque on the surface of the teeth, eventually producing toxins that irritate the gums
  • Unhealthy digestive system due to stomach acid deficiency
  • Respiratory tract infections, including pneumonia or bronchitis
  • Chronic sinus infections or postnasal drip
  • Eating odorous food
  • Dry mouth (also known as xerostomia)
  • Illness such as diabetes, cancer, lung disease, kidney failure or liver disease
  • Medications – most commonly antidepressants, diuretics, and even aspirin

Bad Breath from Dry Mouth

Dry mouth, a condition where the salivary glands are unable to produce normal saliva flow, is a common contributor to halitosis symptoms. One of the best products for dry mouth on the market, OraCoat XyliMelts, can provide you with fast and easy temporary relief until you are able to visit a trusted practitioner. XyliMelts, XyliGel, and XyliGum with xylitol can be used in combination with other over-the-counter breath fresheners such as, gum, mints, mouth rinses, or breath sprays. XyliMelts can also be used while sleeping to prevent bad breath upon awakening.

Xylitol-containing breath mints or chewing gum, like XyliGum, can help eliminate bad breath by increasing saliva flow which washes away bacteria and makes their environment less hospitable. Halitosis is primarily attributed to dry mouth syndrome (xerostomia), a condition in which anaerobic bacteria flourish. Salivation increases when flavors like xylitol stimulate salivary glands and creates a moist, oxygen-rich environment in which anaerobic bacteria (and their smelly gases) cannot survive.

What is Xylitol?

Used as an FDA-approved artificial sweetener by many food manufacturing companies, xylitol is a naturally occurring carbohydrate that is also an effective inhibitor of tooth decay, bad breath and gum disease. Unlike regular sugar that can accelerate the development of dental caries, gingivitis and halitosis, xylitol's unique chemical composition prevents bacteria growth encouraged by sugary foods and beverages. In addition, xylitol also inhibits plaque development, promotes teeth remineralization and reduces acidity levels in the mouth.

Is Xylitol Safe for Diabetics?

Yes. As a low-calorie sweetener derived from carbohydrates in certain fruits and plants xylitol is not absorbed as quickly as sugar because metabolization of xylitol occurs independently of insulin. This means it will increase blood glucose levels in diabetics only slowly and only half as much as sugar or other common carbohydrates. It is commonly used by people with type 2 diabetes. Visit our How To Treat Dry Mouth from Diabetes page for more information on dry mouth causes and treatments for those living with diabetes.

10 More Bad Breath Remedies

  1. In addition to basic oral hygiene, include electric toothbrushes and oral irrigation devices in your daily teeth cleaning practices to remove as much mouth debris as possible.
  2. Bacteria accumulating in tongue fissures are a cause of bad breath—so brush your tongue!
  3. Use mouthwash that does not contain alcohol since alcohol is a known desiccant that can actually dehydrate your mouth and promote bacteria growth.
  4. If you smoke, try to stop or at the very least, cut back. Smoking contributes to chronic dry mouth and gum disease which lead to bad breath.
  5. Drinking water is a great way to hydrate your mouth, kill bacteria that cannot survive in moist, oxygenated environments and remove mouth debris.
  6. To stimulate saliva flow, eat citrus fruits like oranges, lemons and grapes or use XyliMelts.
  7. Chew cardamom, spearmint, fresh parsley or cloves instead of sugary gum to freshen your breath.
  8. Gargle with one teaspoon of hydrogen peroxide mixed with three teaspoons of water. Hydrogen peroxide releases oxygen molecules that kills bacteria and reduces the intensity of odorous gases.
  9. Gargling with salt water can help remove dead or loose oral tissues that is a major food source for bad breath bacteria.
  10. Cavities, tonsil stones or gum infections can cause bad breath. If you've tried various bad breath treatments and nothing works, make an appointment with your dentist to have your teeth and gums thoroughly checked.

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