There are many causes of bad breath, and while you may think you know all of them, you're probably missing a few. Sure, everyone knows that garlic, onions, coffee and some other food and drinks can leave you with foul-smelling breath, but did you know that all food can actually cause halitosis? This is because the bacteria that lives in your mouth also consumes everything that you eat, and they subsequently dispose of the waste in your mouth, emitting a nasty odor. This is why it's important to regularly use alcohol-free mouthwash after you eat and not just after snacking on smelly foods.
Other than food, another common cause of bad breath is mouth breathing. While this may not seem like a major issue, you might be surprised to discover the many ways that this bad habit can affect your life. When you keep your mouth open to breathe, you're increasing your chances of experiencing dry mouth, which allows oral bacteria to run wild, unchecked by the saliva that usually washes it away. This is sure to cause some mighty bad halitosis.
Not just a bad habit
According to naturopath Mim Beim, who wrote an article for News Limited, mouth breathing may contribute to conditions such as asthma, sinusitis, gum disease, snoring, sleep apnea, anxiety and possibly hypertension and obesity. This is because unlike your nose, your mouth does not naturally act as a filter. The nose collects the pollution, dust and bacteria that you encounter in the mucous membranes that line the nasal cavity, which helps debris from spreading elsewhere in the body - the mouth does not.
Furthermore, while mouth breathing leads to a larger intake of air into the lungs, this may not be a good thing.
"Mouth breathing causes the upper parts of the lungs to expand, stimulating the 'fight-or-flight' sympathetic nervous system, as opposed to nose breathing, which expands the lower half of the lungs, switching on the relaxing parasympathetic nervous system," Beim wrote.
In order to understand what she's talking about, imagine that you're panicking and breathing out of your mouth, inhaling high up in your chest and throat. If you compare this to slow breathing through your nose and into your belly, you'll clearly notice that you feel more calm when you take air in through the nose.
Look out for children
So, while mouth breathing can cause bad breath and a host of other issues in adults, you should particularly look out for children who seem to breathe this way. According to a 2010 study published in General Dentistry, the peer-reviewed clinical journal of the Academy of General Dentistry, children who breathe through their mouths may end up with facial and dental development problems such as long, narrow faces and mouths, gummy smiles, gingivitis and crooked teeth. Also, the resulting poor sleeping habits may lead to academic problems in kids.
"Children who mouth breathe typically do not sleep well, causing them to be tired during the day and possibly unable to concentrate on academics," said Yosh Jefferson, D.M.D., author of the study. "If the child becomes frustrated in school, he or she may exhibit behavioral problems."
Luckily, there are ways to help. The researchers added that there are many dental devices that can stop mouth breathing by widening the sinuses and opening nasal passageways. This has been shown to greatly improve the quality of life for children, according to Jefferson.
So, if you find that you or your children are often breathing through the mouth, be sure to use alcohol-free mouthwash to get rid of halitosis, and consider seeking help from a dentist or doctor.