Bad breath, or halitosis, can be embarrassing and unpleasant. In most cases, bad breath can be avoided with simple changes of diet or hygiene habits, but it can also be a sign of an underlying issue. Regular visits to your dentist are important, as they’ll check your mouth for any possible issues, including bad breath, and can help you find a solution.
Bad breath can be caused by a variety of things, including food (onion and garlic), improper oral hygiene, smoking, dry mouth or as a side effect of certain medications. To help avoid bad breath, incorporate these hygiene practices into your routine:
- Brush your teeth after you eat
- Floss daily
- Brush your tongue
- Drink plenty of water
Mouthwash or chewing can be used as a quick fix, but it’s important not to go overboard or to rely solely on them for fresh breath. The alcohol in mouthwash can dry out the mouth, leading to more bad breath. If you are doing all of these things, you may want to consider switching to a natural based toothpaste for a similar reason. Proper oral hygiene is the best way to avoid bad breath and many other oral health problems.
If you’ve tried making hygiene changes and nothing works, it may be a symptom of a larger issue, and it’s time to talk to your dentist or your primary care provider. They’ll look for:
- Adenoid and/or tonsil stones that form in the back of the mouth
- Cuts, spots or lesions made from biting the inside of your mouth
- If saliva is being produced normally
They may also exam your head and neck for anything unusual that might signify cancer or test for diabetes, which can cause excessive thirst. If you smoke, consider quitting since smoking can cause bad breath and increase your risk of developing cancer.
Dr. Zoe Stallings is a family medicine physician with Primary Care at Pomona and a member of Cone Health Medical Group. Dr. Stallings received a Bachelor of Sciences in biosciences from the University of Chicago. She attended medical school at the Loyola Stritch School of Medicine and completed her family medicine residency at West Suburban Medical Center (Illinois).