What Is Bad Breath, Anyway?

We asked a halitosis-obsessed dentist to tell us what bad breath is — and to let us know exactly how to get rid of it for good.

By Camille Lamb

What Is Bad Breath, Anyway?

Everyone gets bad breath. The problems arise when you don’t realize your breath smells like a zombie’s genitals, and you inflict that breath upon others. The ol’ breathe-in-your-cupped-hand trick may help you self-diagnose the problem, but it would help even more if you knew what causes bad breath so that you could stop it before it starts. So we asked Texas-based dentist and fresh-breath enthusiast Dr. Shane Ricci to tell us what causes — and what kills — your halitosis.

1. Poor Dental Hygiene
Dental decay, cavities, and periodontal disease  (chronic gum infection) are the first things a dentist looks for when diagnosing halitosis. Those things, according to Dr. Ricci, can lead to serious infections and larger health issues. Or your bad breath might be seeping up from your throat or stomach. “Enlarged tonsils, chronic throat infection, or acid reflux are health problems that are sometimes responsible. Bacteria build up from those things and cause the halitosis,” he explains.

2, Your Diet
A high protein, low-carb diet like Atkins or Paleo might be at fault. “Those can cause something called ketosis, which is very much associated with halitosis,” Ricci says. “In laymen’s terms, the bacteria in your mouth eat food just like we do, and they go to the bathroom just like we do. When they eat protein and go to the bathroom, you get that really odiferous, sulfurous smell.” Think about that next time you take a date out for steak.

3. Dry Mouth
Dry mouth, or xerostomia, can make it impossible to wash away the dead cells that collect on the gums, inner cheeks, and tongue. Cottonmouth is a common side effect of many medications. Also, you might be dehydrated or simply suffer from morning breath. “At night, salivary glands turn off when you’re sleeping, and that can promote significant halitosis,” Ricci says.

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TAGS: bad breath, oral hygiene, teeth, what is bad breath