What Your Chronic Bad Breath May Be Telling You

Jan 04, 2024
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Bad breath is embarrassing and uncomfortable to talk about and can signal that something isn’t right in your body, not just in your mouth. Read on to learn more.

We’ve all been there - your Uncle Tony leans in for a kiss on the cheek at the family dinner and all you can think about is whether it’s rude to hold your breath so you aren’t bombarded by his bad breath. And you know it’s embarrassing for both of you. If this scenario is all too familiar, you’re not alone. 

Halitosis, the medical term for bad breath, affects an estimated 31.8% of the population. As unpleasant as it is, chronic bad breath isn’t just an awkward occurrence for both the person who has bad breath and everyone who’s nearby; it can be a clue that something is amiss and should get addressed. In this blog, Ginger Rome, DDS, at The Dentists at North Cypress in Houston, Texas, gives you the lowdown on chronic bad breath and why you shouldn't ignore it.

Halitosis explained

While stinky breath happens to us from time to time, especially after eating spicy food or food with lots of garlic and onions, chronic bad breath is entirely different. Halitosis is a constant and ongoing foul smell from the mouth that happens regardless of what you eat or drink. A broad range of issues can trigger halitosis, and not all are related to your mouth.  

Bad breath may be a red flag for oral conditions

Not surprisingly, many cases of chronic bad breath can be issues related to your oral health, with bacteria being  the core of these issues.

Lax hygiene care

As with many health-related issues, it’s the basics that either make or break a health issue. It’s no different with oral health and bad breath. Often, a lax hygiene care routine is at the root of bad breath.

Simply brushing your teeth with fluoride toothpaste at least twice a day and flossing at least once daily helps remove plaque buildup and food debris trapped between your teeth. If left, remnants of a meal or snack start breaking down or rotting, resulting in an unpleasant odor.

If you’re not an avid flosser, you may not know that you should floss before brushing. By flossing first, toothpaste is more effective because the fluoride from your toothpaste can reach all the nooks and crannies between your teeth. While buttoning up your at-home hygiene care, remember the other important parts of preventative dental care – professional cleanings and regular checkups.

Gum disease and tooth decay

Similarly, chronic bad breath lets you know that odor-causing bacteria may be running rampant in your mouth – bacteria that can lead to tooth decay and periodontal disease. Periodontal disease, more commonly called gum disease, is a progressive infection that, if left untreated, can threaten the viability of your teeth by damaging the gums to the point that they can no longer hold your teeth in place. Often bad breath is a telltale sign of gum disease.

Dry mouth

Chronic bad breath is also a symptom of dry mouth, preventing the healthy flow of saliva, which effectively helps keep bacteria at bay by continuously washing away food particles and bacteria throughout the day. Many patients experience dry mouth as a side effect of certain medications, problems with salivary glands, or an underlying disease or medical issue.

May signal underlying medical problems

Chronic bad breath may also be a symptom of an underlying medical issue outside the oral cavity. 

Stomach conditions

Gastrointestinal and stomach problems can also be the cause of chronic bad breath. In cases of chronic heartburn, GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), or acid reflux stomach gas from their condition may escape from their mouth.

Nose, throat, or lung infections

Patients suffering from nose, throat, or lung infections that produce mucus or make patients cough up liquid or sputum, such as pneumonia, can produce bad breath from the foul-smelling substance.

Neck and head cancers

Patients suffering from head and neck cancers may also experience bad breath, in addition to lingering mouth sores, difficulty swallowing, a lump in their neck, and unexplained weight loss.

If you’re suffering from chronic bad breath, contact The Dentists at North Cypress in Houston, Texas, for an evaluation. We review your medical history and do a dental examination to uncover the source of the mouth odor. We look for evidence of infections and symptoms of underlying medical conditions. Make your appointment by calling or scheduling an appointment online today.