If you find that you have bad breath, what does immediately come to mind as you try to figure out what is causing it? A smelly meal? A night sleeping with your mouth open? Cigarettes? Coffee? While these things do cause halitosis, oral odor comes from a variety of sources, many of which may not have occurred to you.
The British Dental Association (BDA) recently listed a number of potential origins of bad breath, broken down according to the kind of odors and oral problems they cause. For instance, people who have halitosis after sleeping, dieting or exercising may be suffering from a dry mouth, one of the most common causes of smelly breath.
If your breath goes bad at around the same time that you starting noticing your gums bleeding during brushing or flossing, you may have gingivitis. Like the bad breath caused by a dry palate, the sort associated with gum disease starts with bacterial growth.
In fact, many forms of halitosis are, at root, a microbial problem. Consider some of the other ways that your mouth, throat and sinus cavities can generate unpleasant odors.
For example, if you notice the uncontrollable urge to clear your throat, look in the back of your mouth before you brush your teeth. Do you see any whitish specks on either side of your throat? These are tonsilloliths, also known as tonsil stones, which can seriously stink up the air you exhale.
The BDA and other dental organizations explain that tonsil stones grow gradually as food, proteins, bacteria and dead cells build up in the folds of your tonsils and adenoids. The living microorganisms that make up the stones' top layer are constantly active, pumping out foul-smelling molecules that can create quite a reek, even in minute amounts.
Other bacteria-related types of bad breath include odors caused by poorly cleaned dentures, sinus infections, post-nasal drip, periodontal disease, tooth decay, plaque buildup and tongue coating, according to a review published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.
A few sources of bad breath are even a little amusing. Take this problem, listed by the BDA: "Odor appears suddenly from nose or even entire body of young children." According to the organization, the mystery is quite simple to solve. What causes such a halitosis-like condition?
"Foreign body placed in nose," is the BDA's laconic response.
While specialty breath fresheners may not be able to address this specific issue, they can certainly neutralize many odors and kill millions of the bacteria responsible for bad breath.