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What causes bad breath and how can I fix it?


After years of social distancing we can finally be close together again for meaningful connections – or can we? Some of us continue to keep our distance due to a fear of being found to have bad breath. You may have tried all manner of products to cover up the odour but it relentlessly returns to haunt your social life. What can you do?

BAD BREATH

Bad breath takes on multiple forms and distinctive odours. Here are the main causes and a path forward:

1. Gum disease (periodontal disease) – the resultant odour is from the breakdown of blood due to ulceration of the gums. If your gums are swollen, dark pink or red and bleed easily, you may have gum disease. Gum disease varies in severity from the superficial level of gingivitis, to deep periodontitis which cause the teeth to lose their foundations, move and become wobbly. Smoking is the number one risk factor for gum disease, closely followed by poorly controlled type 2 diabetes.  Late stage gum disease results in an abscess (collection of pus) which may drain into your mouth, causing a bad taste and foul smell.

2. Dental decay and heavy plaque on the teeth – this odour isn’t quite as potent as that of gum disease but a community of bacteria in your mouth sure do kick up a stink. Regular check ups at your dentist can help to catch decay early, before it becomes a “rotten tooth”. The end stage of dental decay is a tooth abscess (infection) which may drain into your mouth, causing a bad taste and foul smell.

3. Smoking – the tar from conventional cigarettes sticks to the teeth. Until it is cleaned off by a professional it will continue to sit on the teeth and produce its characteristic odour when air flows out over it . 

4. Dietary choices – this is usually a short lived odour after consumption of garlic or onion, coffee or alcohol. Some food intolerances (to fermentable carbohydrates such as lactose, fructose, sorbitol, mannitol, fructans or galacto-oligosaccharides) may cause the sufferer to breath out methane gas as a waste product.

5. Ketosis – if you run down your body’s stores of carbohydrates it will go into a state called ketosis, where it begins to burn fat for fuel. This produces ketones as a waste product and these are eliminated from the body through the breath.

6. Pathology of the nose and throat such as sinus infections, post-nasal drip from allergic or chronic sinusitis, tonsillitis, tonsil stones and throat infections. 

Bad breath may be caused by one or many of the above. Discuss your concerns with your dentist or GP – we are happy to help you identify the root cause and welcome your return to a thriving social life!

COVID-19 Information