We all get bad breath from time to time. Spicy food, tobacco, coffee, poor oral hygiene— these are just some of the common causes of halitosis we’ve all seen or experienced. However, there are many possibilities behind the condition that may not be so obvious and yet are more concerning.
If you have bad breath you can’t quite explain, especially if it persists and is beginning to restrict you socially, consider the following surprising causes:
When your diet barely includes carbohydrates, your body runs on fats and releases ketones into your bloodstream. The problem is that these ketones can also find their way into your breath, giving you that distinct halitosis that comes with low carb consumption. Obviously this is not an oral hygiene issue, so no amount of extra brushing, flossing, or tongue scraping will do. The good news is, you don’t have to quit your low-carb diet either. Ketosis-related halitosis can be managed simply with sugarless gum or mints, especially the bacteria-fighting xylitol, and increased water intake to dilute the ketones.
Drugs are another less known cause of halitosis, and there are two ways they affect your breath. First, they cause the release of odorous body chemicals that can leak through your mouth; and second, they decrease the production of saliva, whose antibacterial action keeps your breath smelling fresh. Many medicines can cause halitosis, especially when taken long-term, including antidepressants, antihistamines, diuretics, migraine medications, and even certain vitamin supplements. Fortunately, just like ketosis-related bad breath, drug-induced halitosis can be managed with sugarless gum and mints and by drinking more water to keep the mouth hydrated.
Being Sick (Cold, Strep Throat, Sinusitis, Etc.)
We’ve all experienced colds, strep throat and sinusitis, but we don’t always think of them as causes of halitosis. They are, and so are a host of other respiratory illnesses that deposit infected mucus at the back of the throat, making our breath stink when we breathe from the mouth. Generally speaking, we emit odors when we’re ill simply because our immune systems are on overdrive. It’s nature’s signal that someone is sick and needs attention, or that we should back off to protect ourselves from the contagion. Even animals are documented to have this ability to smell illness, whether in humans or other animals.
When we drink too much alcohol, our bodies treat the substance as a toxin and convert it to less harmful chemicals to protect us from its damaging effects. About 90% of the alcohol we consume gets converted to acetic acid, and that’s what causes bad breath following an alcohol binge. It goes without saying that if you drink too much too often, the halitosis will stick around longer. Not all kinds of alcoholic drinks cause bad breath equally though, but you’ll want to stay away from liqueurs, certain aromatic blends, or alcohol altogether.
Heartburn and GERD
In gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, stomach contents flow back up into the esophagus and cause a painful sensation known as heartburn. But that’s not what causes GERD-related bad breath. Remember that your stomach contains undigested food, acids, and bile. When they escape into your esophagus, which leads all the way to your mouth, you get bad breath. Managing GERD-related bad breath is therefore as simple as managing your GERD; for example, eating smaller meals or waiting a few hours to lie down after you eat. Ask your doctor for tips.
Learn More at Lake Pointe Dental Group in O’Fallon
While bad breath is generally harmless, it can signal something more important, such as a lifestyle problem or even a serious disease that must be addressed. By knowing that halitosis can be caused by many other factors, such as carb consumption, medicines, respiratory illnesses, alcohol, or heartburn, you know the condition must never be taken for granted. Of course, it helps to have a family dentist to appease your concerns and help you find the right solutions to your bad breath woes. Oral health care goes beyond treating halitosis or its causes, after all. It’s about providing comprehensive family dental care that includes installing crowns, dental implants, or any other needed interventions.