Having bad breath flat out stinks; both literally and figuratively. It’s not something that we talk about publicly, but it’s on our minds at random times throughout the day. Think about it. How many times do we look for a piece of gum or a breath mint? How many times do you do the ‘breath test’ by breathing into your hands and taking a sniff? When you’re talking with someone, how many times do we think in the back of our minds, “I wonder if my breath smells”?
For most of us, it isn’t a HUGE problem, but it is something that is a concern at some level. The ADA estimates that 75% of people in the US suffer from bad breath at varying degrees at some point. The causes of bad breath can vary. Understanding why we have it can help with preventing and/or lessening its effects during the day. Here are the top 5 reasons why your breath can go south.
1) Bacteria – The number one cause of bad breath is bacteria. There is an average of 600 different types of oral bacteria in a person’s mouth. They live in relative harmony with our bodies and serve several important functions. One of them is as a means to prevent more harmful microbials from taking root in our mouths. Like any living organism, in order to survive they must eat As they eat they release compounds that have smell. This is what causes breath odor.
Brushing, flossing and general oral care helps to reduce these effects, but they will never eliminate it completely. Things like gum or mints help to temporarily reduce the problem, but these are generally not long term solutions.
2) Food – What we eat can also be a source of bad breath. Foods contain all types of compounds, nutrients, vitamins and other essential goodies. However, one downside is that certain compounds in certain foods tend to have a strong odor; in fact they are similar to the same compounds produced by the oral bacteria; weird isn’t it? Things like garlic, onions, meat, beans, eggs, and spicy food have high amounts of what are called sulfide compounds. They tend to have an odor similar to rotting eggs. As food gets digested in the body, these compounds are released and absorbed into the body, eventually making their way out through our skin, sweat, mouth and other openings.
3) Sugar – Ah sweets. We love it, but we’re always told that it’ll rot your teeth. Well, it will also cause bad breath. By default our mouth is set at a balanced acidity level or pH level. Sugar changes the pH balance of the mouth. When this happens it creates an environment which allows them to grow more rapidly. More bacteria means more odor compounds being produced, which of course means more bad breath for you.
4) Alcohol – You might think that drinking a nice cocktail is actually good for your breath because alcohol kills bacteria. Well, not quite. Drinking presents two issues. First, alcohol dries your mouth. Saliva works like a natural mouth wash. It helps to rinse away bacteria and food particles, as well as control bacterial growth. Alcohol reduces saliva production and thus you lose the benefits of saliva on bacteria. In addition, alcoholic beverages often contain a lot of sugar. As we know, sugar affects your mouth’s acidity which in turn affects bacteria.
5) Smoking – Cigarettes and cigars also reduce saliva production. Not to mention it leaves a burnt, astray smell that lingers.