The Different Kinds of Bad Breath, Part 3: Sinus Breath

I'm convinced that many people simply think bad breath is "mouth only" and can be cured with a quick brush or a breath mint. That's not the case -- there are many "types" of bad breath.
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Let's move forward in our series on bad breath (otherwise known as Halitosis) with a look at what I call "sinus breath," which is bad breath that's a result of sinus problems.

First, a recap: The entire reason I'm doing this series on the different kinds of bad breath is to point out that not all bad breath originates from not brushing your teeth, etc. I'm convinced that many people simply think bad breath is "mouth only" and can be cured with a quick brush or a breath mint. That's not the case -- there are many "types" of bad breath. In this blog, I've already done tonsil breath, and lung breath. And today, we'll move forward with sinus breath.

The first thing I'll state is "sinus breath" is not an "official" medical term -- I kind of made it up (just like "lung breath" and "tonsil breath"). But in my professional opinion (as well as my blog), "sinus breath" is bad breath that is somehow related to your sinuses.

So the obvious question is this: How do your sinuses contribute to bad breath? Well, there are actually several ways. I'll list them here:

Post Nasal Drip -- Post Nasal Drip is excess mucus that leaks ("drips") in the back of your mouth. The causes of post nasal drip are many -- anything that causes excess mucus can/will result in post-nasal drip. It can be as simple as a cold or allergies (any kind of allergy -- food, pollen, pets, etc.), or something harder to pin down, like a bacterial infection (1). When this excess mucus occurs, it creates an environment ripe for bacteria to multiply, giving the discharge an odor. Hence, you get bad breath.

Sinusitis -- Somewhat similar to post nasal drip in how it causes bad breath, sinusitis is a fancy name for what we commonly call a "sinus infection." When this happens, your sinuses become inflamed, causing the mucus to stop circulating and instead build up. This is a rich environment for bacteria to grow and multiply, and can result in a foul odor. There are a myriad of causes for a sinus infection / sinusitis -- everything from a cold to allergies to smoking to a tooth infection. But one of the first symptoms (besides a clogged nose and pain) is usually bad breath. (2)

Cleft Palate -- Sometimes a condition like a cleft palate can create an area where bacteria can grow and multiply undisturbed. This can sometimes cause bad breath (3).

Mouth Breathing -- This is an area where the "types" of bad breath can sometimes overlap (because I'll talk about mouth breathing and dry mouth in the future). But a lot of the issues I mention above may cause one to breathe "more" through their mouth, which can lead to dry mouth, which can lead to bad breath. (4) This happens because saliva washes away food particles and keeps the mouth clean. So, in the absence of saliva, you have an environment for stinky bacteria. Again, we'll touch on dry mouth again in the future, but I wanted to mention it here because sinus problems can lead to it (any blockage of nasal passages can lead to more mouth breathing, so a deviated septum and similar can cause such as well).

Now that I've mentioned all of the causes, it's time to talk about solutions. Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all solution for bad breath that's related to your sinuses. That's because the causes are so widespread, without any real connection to them (for example, having cold-induced post nasal drip is obviously very, very different than having a cleft palate). And like I mentioned in the very beginning of this post, it's not as simple as chewing a piece of gum or popping a breath mint -- that "cure" may be fleeting at best.

Thus, the obvious solution to curing sinus breath is to tackle the individual cause, whatever it is. This could range from antibiotics for a one-time sinus infection to avoiding allergy triggers to even surgery in regard to blocked nasal passages (but that's pretty extreme). Like I mentioned in the other "breath blogs," the best thing to do if you have chronic bad breath is to speak with your doctor or dentist and let them help you in determining the cause. Is it coming from the stomach, lungs, sinus, or mouth? Once the "where does the bad breath come from?" question is satisfactorily answered, the treatment and cure can be worked on.

I hope you are enjoying this series on bad breath. It's refreshing to write (no pun intended), because it allows me to have something to point to when I'm cornered at a party and people say "doc, about this breath..."

Until next time, keep smiling.

For more by Thomas P. Connelly, D.D.S., click here.

For more on dental health, click here.

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