Bad Breath: Many Causes, Simple Solutions

There are many different causes of bad breath, and each of them can produce their own, unique form of oral odor. It's important to know what all of these things are so you can avoid them or take the proper steps to combat them.
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The source of halitosis should never be a mystery. While it may be difficult to pinpoint exactly where your bad breath is coming from, it's necessary to get to the root of it so you can cure your problem. There are many different causes of bad breath, and each of them can produce their own, unique form of oral odor. It's important to know what all of these things are so you can avoid them or take the proper steps to combat them before your friends start offering you mints and people back away from you on the train.

Recently, The Telegraph fielded some questions from readers who were baffled by their "mystery halitosis," when in reality their bad breath came from a fairly simple source.

Halitosis doesn't care how old you are

In one letter to the newspaper, a man began by stating that he was not old, yet was already experiencing halitosis and did not know why. While it's true that elderly individuals have an increased risk of some of the causes of bad breath, such as dry mouth and gum disease, there is certainly no age limit for halitosis. Anyone, at any age, can be afflicted by oral odor, which is why alcohol-free mouthwash is a good buy for the whole family. The hapless chap wrote to The Telegraph:

"I am not an old man, but have for the past 18 months or so been suffering from severe halitosis and occasional acid reflux while eating. My dentist has reported no problems from his point of view, and the ear, nose and throat doctor has said that there is no sinus problem. A gastroenterologist has said there is no problem with my liver or blood. Everybody seems to be drawing a blank. What can be done?"

Well, he may be missing some of the most common causes of bad breath. For example, he doesn't mention if he is consuming any high-sulfur foods such as onions and garlic that are known to ruin fresh breath. Of course, these aren't the only snacks that can lead to stinky breath. While onions, garlic and other spicy foods may leave you with particular strong oral odor, almost anything you eat has the potential to cause bad breath. Leftover food particles serve as breakfast, lunch and dinner for the bacteria in your mouth, which then multiply and emit an unpleasant smell.

Little stones, big problem

Aside from pungent foods, another possible cause of the man's bad breath might be tonsil stones. The tonsils are made of tissue that contains cells that help fight infections. According to WebMD, these glands are meant to function like nets and trap bacteria that are passing into the throat. While this all sounds good, the tonsils aren't perfect. They contain nooks and crannies that make it easy for food particles, bacteria and dead cells to get trapped in. This debris can create small, white lumps in the back of the throat.

While sometimes these stones have no symptoms, they can often come with a heaping helping of bad breath. WebMD cites one study that set out to determine if patients with high concentrations of volatile sulfur compounds (VSCs) in their breath also suffered from tonsil stones. VSCs are considered the main ingredients of bad breath, and there are tools such as halimeters that doctors and dentists can use to measure the amount of VSCs in the mouth. The scientists discovered that 75 percent of people who had high levels of VSCs also had tonsil stones.

So if you're finding that your breath is less than fresh, it may be time to check for these little white stones. Sometimes, they can be visible on the back of the throat as white specs, but they are often hidden in the folds of the tonsils. If you suspect that you may have them, try coughing hard to see if one comes up.

If you discover tonsil stones don't panic, as there are ways to get rid of them and eliminate your halitosis. Some people try to remove them using picks or swabs, but who wants to be jabbing aimlessly inside their throat? Even more frightening, some people end up having to visit a dental health professional to have these stones surgically removed, but there are steps you can take to prevent that. Gargling with alcohol-free mouthwash is an easy and effective way to loosen tonsil stones and eliminate bad breath.

Other potential causes

There are many other possible sources of bad breath, such a dry mouth, gum disease and tooth decay. Luckily, they all have common solutions, as specialty breath fresheners, oral care probiotics and alcohol-free mouthwashes can help you eliminate halitosis and enjoy a healthy mouth.

For more by Dr. Harold Katz, click here.

For more on dental health, click here.

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