Bad breath—also known as halitosis—is more than an unpleasant reality; it also indicates excessive bacterial growth in the mouth. What causes this issue? Who is at risk? Here are some answers, along with suggested simple steps you can take help keep your breath fresh.

Why does bad breath occur?

A number of conditions contribute to the issue of bad breath. Dieting, medical conditions, medications, poor oral hygiene, and smoking are all issues that could lead to bad breath by causing excessive growth of bacteria in the mouth. These same bacteria also cause gum disease and tooth decay.

Do children ever experience bad breath?

The mouth bacteria that cause the problem are present in both children and adults. It’s an issue that can affect people of many ages.

How does dieting contribute to bad breath?

During dieting, the body experiences a metabolism shift, during which it burns fat. The body produces ketones during this process, and these emit a bad odor when they are exhaled.

How do illnesses or medications affect an individual’s breath?

Some medical conditions and medications cause patients to experience dry mouth (xerostomia). When a lack of saliva exists, excessive bacteria can build up in the mouth, resulting in bad breath. If you have a medical condition or medication that is causing you to experience a dry mouth, please consult your doctor for more information.

Regardless of what causes bad breath, can drinking more water help to control it?

Yes, drinking more water is highly recommended. Patients can also reduce the bacterial load in their mouths by maintaining their oral hygiene. The Mayo Clinic’s recommendations for daily water intake are found here. Similar guidelines from the US National Library of Medicine are found here.

What about tongue scrapers? Can they help patients to control bad breath?

Yes, we recommend that patients with this issue use tongue scrapers as part of their daily oral hygiene regimen. Daily flossing, twice-daily brushing, and using tongue scrapers to remove dead cells from the top of the tongue are all good ways to reduce the number of bacteria in the mouth.

Do you have questions or concerns on this topic? We’re always happy to help, so please ask!