Bad breath (halitosis): causes and treatments

18 May · 4 minutes

Bad breath, also known as halitosis, is a common oral health problem that can affect a person's self-esteem and confidence. Not only does it impact the individual, but it can also be detected by others around them. It is important to understand the underlying cause of halitosis (smelly breath) and seek appropriate treatment to prevent physical and psychological consequences. Below, we will provide a comprehensive guide on halitosis and how Impress can help those whose bad breath is caused by dental malpositions.

What is halitosis?

You may be wondering what halitosis is. Halitosis refers to the presence of foul-smelling odors originating from the mouth, which can occur occasionally or persistently. The cause of this unpleasant and smelly breath is often attributed to the presence of bacteria on the tongue or in the crevices around the gums. When these bacteria break down, they release volatile sulphur compounds (VSCs), which produce the unpleasant smell in the mouth. The primary VSC responsible for halitosis is hydrogen sulphide, which is typically found at the back of the tongue.

Types of halitosis or bad breath

There are two types of halitosis or bad breath, which can vary depending on the cause. In the following sections, we will define each type and highlight their differences.

Physiological halitosis

Physiological halitosis is caused by bacteria that accumulate on the upper back of the tongue, even when the person has good oral hygiene. Ingesting certain types of food, smoking, or drinking alcohol can worsen the condition and produce unpleasant odors in the mouth.

A man covering his mouth with his hand whilst frowning at work

Pathologic causes of halitosis

On the contrary, pathologic halitosis is caused by oral diseases that promote the growth of bacteria, leading to chronic bad breath. Although other factors may also contribute, periodontal diseases, such as gingivitis or periodontitis, are the most common oral diseases that are pathological causes of halitosis.

The reasons for bad breath: what causes halitosis?

Halitosis, also known as bad breath, can be caused by various factors, some of which originate in the mouth, while others may stem from elsewhere in the body. Here are some of the most common reasons and causes of bad breath or halitosis:

Extraoral halitosis

Halitosis can also be caused by factors outside of the oral cavity, which are referred to as extraoral causes. While less common than intraoral causes, there are a number of non-oral diseases that can trigger bad breath.The following are some of the most common extraoral causes of halitosis:

  1. Digestive tract infections
  2. Gastrointestinal diseases
  3. Nasal infections, such as sinusitis or rhinitis
  4. Hepatitis
  5. Haematological or endocrine system disorder

Intraoral halitosis

Halitosis caused by intraoral factors results from changes that occur within the mouth and is responsible for the majority of cases of bad breath. The following are the most common intraoral causes of halitosis:

  1. Accumulation of food debris in the oral cavity
  2. Dental malpositions
  3. Periodontal diseases, such as gingivitis or periodontitis
  4. Phlegmon
  5. Tooth decay
  6. Fixed dentures or orthodontic appliances
  7. Xerostomia, commonly known as dry mouth
  8. Ingestion of coffee, alcohol and tobacco

Below we will delve into more detail regarding some of the most common intraoral causes of halitosis and the corresponding treatments for bad breath.

Do cavities cause bad breath?

Can cavities cause bad breath or halitosis? Tooth decay occurs when bacteria break down the tooth enamel and dentin, resulting in cavities. The bacteria responsible for cavities can cause bad breath and are, therefore, can be one of the causes of halitosis.

Poor dental hygiene is a primary factor that causes to bad breath

Bad breath can also be caused by poor dental hygiene, as it enables the buildup of food particles in the mouth and creates an environment that fosters the growth of bacteria on the teeth and tongue, both of which can lead to bad breath.

Crowded and crooked teeth: another cause of bad breath

Can crooked teeth cause bad breath? Halitosis can be caused by different types of dental malposition, such as crowded or crooked teeth, as these conditions make it difficult to properly clean teeth, resulting in the accumulation of food particles and the proliferation of bacteria that cause bad breath.

A man flossing his teeth in front of a mirror

Can braces cause bad breath?

If you’re wondering, “do braces cause bad breath,” we’re here to explain. Patients who wear fixed orthodontic appliances, such as braces, are at risk of developing bad breath due to the buildup of food particles on the teeth and poor dental hygiene. Therefore, it is crucial to maintain proper oral hygiene to prevent unpleasant mouth odors. Crooked teeth can cause bad breath as well—as it is more difficult to clean between the teeth. Alternatively, removable orthodontic appliances, such as aligners, may be a better option since they are easier to clean as they can be removed from the mouth.

How to get rid of bad breath: treatments & remedies for halitosis

Let’s break down the ways of how to get rid of bad breath. The initial and crucial step to finding a treatment for bad breath is to consult a specialist who can identify the root cause of the issue and recommend the appropriate halitosis treatment.If the halitosis is caused by factors outside of the mouth, a general practitioner or specialist should be consulted to remedy the underlying cause and alleviate the bad breath. However, for most cases of intra-oral halitosis, a dentist will be the specialist who will evaluate and remedy the bad breath problem. The following are some suggestions for eliminating bad breath caused by intra-oral factors:

  1. Maintain good oral hygiene: brush your teeth after every meal, paying attention to the interproximal spaces and tongue, and complement brushing with flossing.
  2. Use mouthwash to kill bacteria and temporarily stop bad breath.
  3. Keep saliva flowing in the mouth by drinking plenty of water or stimulating saliva with foods that require a lot of chewing.
  4. Adjust your diet and avoid foods that cause bad breath or are very sugary, as these are closely linked to tooth decay, which can in turn lead to smelly breath.
  5. Reduce or eliminate tobacco and alcohol consumption.
  6. Visit the dentist once or twice a year to prevent the onset of oral conditions.
  7. Have a professional hygiene once or twice a year to remove plaque from your mouth that can lead to tooth decay or periodontal disease.

If the cause of your halitosis is related to an oral pathology, your dentist should carry out a treatment as a cure for the condition and to stop the bad breath. If the problem is related to dental malposition, an orthodontist must determine the cause and the most appropriate orthodontic treatment for the bad breath.

Impress: your ally in the battle against bad breath

If dental malposition is the cause of your halitosis, Impress can assist you in combatting bad breath and treating halitosis using our clear removable orthodontic treatments. With Impress aligners, we can rectify malpositions like crowding or crooked teeth, align your smile, and prevent the accumulation of food debris and bacteria in your mouth that lead to bad breath.We offer various types of orthodontic treatments at Impress, tailored to your needs and the complexity of your case, with transparent prices and no surprises. We also provide financing options if you prefer to pay for your orthodontic treatment in installments.

Take the first step toward improving your oral health today! Find a clinic near you and book your complimentary consultation now. Give us a call at +1 628.265.8188 or email us at careteam@smile2impress.com and we can assist you with scheduling.

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Bad breath FAQ

Can halitosis be chronic?

Everyone gets bad breath occasionally — especially after eating garlic, onions, or other strong foods. But bad breath that doesn't go away (chronic halitosis) could mean you have an oral health issue or a condition that's affecting another part of your body.

Why does my breath smell bad even after brushing?

If your breath still smells bad even after brushing your teeth it may be a sign of gum disease and/or cavities. The bacteria that cause bad breath can hide in cavities in your teeth. This makes it difficult to get rid of the bacteria when you're brushing your teeth because it's hidden in places that you can't reach. Similarly, these bacteria can hide in deep pockets caused by gum disease.

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