Among its health topics pages, the American Dental Association (ADA) lists "bad breath (halitosis)" as a significant oral care problem. The nationally recognized dental health organization runs through some of the conditions that bad breath indicates, and suggests treating the cause but not the symptom.
Halitosis can be a warning sign of a number of dental problems. If you have a pungent smell on your breath even after brushing regularly, you may have gingivitis or tooth decay, according to the ADA. Gingivitis occurs when oral bacteria migrate beneath the gumline and multiply rapidly, causing an infection that your toothbrush can't properly reach. Bad breath is one of its hallmarks.
The same goes for tooth decay, a condition in which microorganisms that live on the surface of teeth generate acids that wear away enamel. Over time, this can lead to cavities and yellowing of the teeth. If left untreated, decay can lead to tooth loss or periodontitis, an advanced and serious form of gingivitis.
Other common causes of bad breath include dry mouth, smoking and food particles in the mouth. The ADA recommends brushing and flossing regularly to reduce oral odor. Additionally, those with halitosis may consider rinsing with a specialty breath freshener in order to neutralize odors and kill bacteria.