Having bad breath is one of those embarrassing situations we never want to find ourselves in. But what exactly causes the unpleasant odors?
While many of us think it's simply down to smelly foods that we consume, there are plenty of other reasons why we could be experiencing bad breath.
Foods that make your breath smell
Cosmetic bad breath is the most common; it's superficial bad breath that can usually be eliminated by using sugar-free chewing gum, tooth brushing, or mouthwash.
"Onion, garlic, and drinks such as coffee all cause cosmetic bad breath," says Karen Coates, dental advisor at the Oral Health Foundation. "And, of course, smoking is a big cause of stinky breath."
Poor oral hygiene
But the biggest cause of bad breath is bacteria in your mouth, caused by insufficient tooth brushing.
"Food, debris and plaque can get stuck in and around the teeth and it will eventually break down causing bad breath gases," Coates tells us.
"The gases produced by the array of nasty bacteria living in your mouth feed off leftover food and sugars and release the bad smell," adds Dr. Miguel Stanley. "That's why flossing is incredibly important."
Often overlooked, dehydration is another big reason your breath smells.
"Being dehydrated means that you do not produce as much saliva as usual," Coates tells us. "Saliva is the mouth's natural way of fighting bacteria, as it has antibacterial properties. Without it the bacteria, which cause bad breath, can grow rapidly."
What health problems are associated with bad breath?
Dr. Stanley stresses that not all bad breath problems are an indicator of bad teeth.
"If you have sweet, fruity smelling breath, for example, it could mean you have diabetes, while ammonia smelling breath could mean kidney issues," he tells us.
It's important to rule out any oral health problems from your dentist before seeking other medical advice. If bad breath persists when you are certain you have no dental issues, Dr. Stanley recommends visiting an ear, nose, and throat specialist to see if you have any sinus problems, and also with a gastroenterologist to make sure everything is OK with the digestive tract.
Tips to stop bad breath
- Regular check-ups with your dentist to make sure your gums are healthy and you have no plaque. "Ensuring fillings and crowns are perfectly adapted to tooth structure is important," says Stanley.
- Clean your tongue for two minutes last thing at night and at least one other time during the day with fluoride toothpaste, advises Coates. "Brushing alone can clean up to 60 percent of the surface of your teeth so clean in-between the teeth once a day using interdental brushes, tape, or floss."
- Chew sugar-free gum, as it helps your mouth produce saliva and stops it drying out. A dry mouth can lead to bad breath.
- Keep a food diary and list any medications you're taking. Take this diary to the dentist, who may be able to suggest ways to solve the problem.
This article originally appeared on GoodHousekeeping.uk. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.