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Guide to Bad Breath: Basic Information, Causes & Treatment

Halitosis. Bad breath. Whatever you call it, many people deal with it on a daily basis. As many as 65% of Americans have bad breath, while 40 million have chronic halitosis, or persistent bad breath. Over $1 billion is spent annually on over the counter bad breath products. Here though, you'll learn all about bad breath, how it's caused, and how you can effectively treat it, and improve your oral hygiene and health.

Bad Breath Causes

What causes bad breath? A huge range of factors, potentially. But at its core, bad breath is caused by particles of food remaining in the mouth, on your teeth, in between them and on your gums, on your tongue, and elsewhere. 

Dead bacterial cells actually release a sulfur compound which makes bad breath, well, bad. Of course, certain foods are worse offenders than others.


  • Periodontal, or gum disease, may be a cause of persistent bad breath as well. Gum disease is caused by the buildup of plaque, which will contribute to ongoing bad breath.
  • Dry mouth, or xerostomia, may also cause bad breath, as saliva is used to clean your mouth, and in turn, remove odor-causing particles.
  • Dieting and fasting can cause bad breath.
  • Smoking and tobacco is well known to cause bad breath.
  • In some cases, bad breath may be a sign of a more serious health problem, including respiratory tract infections, bronchitis, diabetes, gastrointestinal disturbances, or even a liver or kidney ailment.
  • Specific ailments may lead to specific types of bad breath, and different odors. For instance, liver cirrhosis offers an odor resembling decayed blood, while diabetes gives off an acetone, fruity odor, and kidney failure could lead to an ammonia or urine odor.
  • Bad breath may also be caused by a range of prescription drugs or narcotics.

Bad Breath Treatment

The best treatment for bad breath is proper oral hygiene. That means brushing your teeth at least twice per day, as well as flossing and mouthwash. That also means regular professional cleanings as well.

Don't forget to brush your tongue. Many cases of bad breath are due to accumulation of bacteria on the tongue's surface, but this is ignored by many people as they're brushing at home.

Proper oral hygiene at home will also help ensure you don't develop gum disease. If periodontal disease has developed, treatments are available, including deeper and more comprehensive cleaning procedures.

When bad breath still persists despite proper oral hygiene and prevention, there are prescription medications which may be offered to kill bacteria and neutralize sulfur compounds. Or you may want to seek your physician to see if there could be another condition at work. Also be sure to keep track of foods you're eating, and medications you're taking.

Call Parmar Family & Cosmetic Dentistry in Clarksville, Maryland at 410.531.5639 for more information, or to schedule an appointment for your regular cleaning and exam fill out our online appointment form.