You already know your breath can give away information like the last time you brushed your teeth or what you had for lunch. It can actually tell you a lot more than that. In fact, your breath could tell you about your overall health, too. Learn more about what causes bad breath, from the stomach to the airways to other parts of the body.
What Your Breath Can Tell You About Your Oral Health
Morning breath is no joke, and it’s a good motivator for brushing our teeth in the morning. That gets rid of that gross film in your mouth that forms while you sleep, and ensures your breath doesn’t stink all day. But what causes bad breath beyond a night’s sleep? As it turns out, your breath can tell you a lot more about your oral health.
In fact, it can be helpful to pay attention to your breath since it can let you know if something is wrong in your mouth. Wondering what causes bad breath even after brushing? Bad breath that sticks around after you brush teeth might indicate:
- Oral infections: If you have dying teeth, gum disease, tooth decay, or any other infection in your mouth, it can cause bad breath of varying degrees.
- Dry Mouth: So, how does dry mouth cause bad breath? If you have dry mouth because of a health condition, medications, stress, or breathing through your mouth when you sleep, bacteria can build up in your mouth, causing bad breath.
- Poor dental hygiene habits: This is the most obvious reason for bad breath, and it’s also the easiest to fix. If you’re not brushing twice daily for two minutes, flossing daily, and cleaning your tongue, then bacteria, food, and plaque build up in your mouth, causing stinky breath. If you have braces, dentures, or another dental appliance, insufficient cleaning of the gear or appliance can also cause bad breath.
- Surgical wounds: If you have oral surgery, your wounds can be a source of bad breath. Look out for breath that worsens with time rather than improving as that may be a sign of a wound infection. Some people wonder, “Can wisdom teeth cause bad breath after extraction?” Like any oral surgery, removing teeth requires keeping the surgical site clean to avoid bad breath and other potential problems.
- Using the wrong dental products: Some dental health products with high alcohol content, like certain mouthwashes, can actually dry your mouth out. Unfortunately, that could cause bad breath rather than helping it.
But what if you have great oral hygiene, a report of excellent oral health from your dentist, and no other obvious reasons for your bad breath? What causes bad breath even after brushing? In that case, your breath may be telling you something about your overall health instead.
What Can Your Breath Reveal About Your Overall Health?
If your breath smells bad or unusual, it’s time to check in with your doctor no matter how great your oral hygiene has been. Want to know what causes bad breath from the stomach and other areas of the body? Here are some of the general health conditions that can cause changes in your breath.
- Acid reflux: Acid reflux, also called GERD when it becomes chronic, is caused by stomach acid flowing back up the esophagus, which can also bring undigested food with it and a sour odor.
- Bronchitis: When your bronchial tubes get infected, they swell and you end up with a terrible cough, congestion, and bad-smelling mucus and breath.
- Dehydration: If you’re dehydrated, your body may not produce enough saliva, which causes dry mouth and an excess of bacteria in your mouth.
- Diabetes: This lack of insulin causes your body to burn fat rather than sugar, which produces ketones, like acetone, in your body. If your breath smells fruity or like nail polish, it may be diabetes.
- Diet: Several diets can cause bad breath. A diet high in onions and garlic may cause stinky breath, but it’s nothing to worry about with good oral health. Low carb diets, however, can cause the release of ketones like acetone, just like diabetes.
- Infections: Any infection of the nose, sinus, throat, or tonsils can cause bad breath.
- Kidney problems: If your kidneys aren’t functioning correctly, they’re unable to filter minerals out of your blood properly, causing them to build up in your body. This can make your breath smell of ammonia or urine.
- Liver problems: When your liver isn’t working correctly, it can’t regulate your blood sugar or filter toxins from your blood. This can cause bad breath with a musty, sweet smell.
- Medications: Some medications give you dry mouth, while others release chemicals in your body that can be smelled on your breath.
- Pneumonia: This infection can be viral or bacterial, but the buildup of fluid in your lungs can smell foul, and if you cough it up, the smell will carry on your breath.
- Post-nasal drip: If mucus builds up in the back of your throat, it can travel to your mouth or build up around your tonsils, causing bad breath.
- Tobacco use: Using tobacco products causes a buildup of odor-causing agents in your mouth, airways, and lungs, and also causes dry mouth. It can also cause oral diseases, which can cause bad breath as well.
In addition, some autoimmune diseases, cancers, and metabolic disorders can cause distinctive smelling breath. Discovering what causes bad breath can actually be an important step in ensuring that your whole body stays as healthy as possible. So, if your breath smells strange or bad, what can you do about it?
What You Can Do to Improve Your Breath
Start with the basics and take good care of your mouth. But, that’s not all you should be doing. It’s also important to take care of your entire body because your oral health and your overall health are closely connected. As such, it’s essential to take care of your body as a whole. To do that, make sure you quit smoking or using other tobacco products. Drink plenty of water, eat a healthy diet, and practice breathing through your nose instead of your mouth. If you often have dry mouth, talk to your dentist about using things like xylitol gum to help with the issue.
See your dentist
If your bad breath is due to oral health issues, see your dentist as soon as possible to pinpoint the issue and help you resolve oral health problems. From there, talk to your dentist about improving your dental health routine. You may need to work on your brushing technique, get a flossing tutorial, or learn how to properly clean your tongue. Here’s what you should expect to do each day to ensure you’re taking great care of your mouth.
Daily Oral Hygiene Routine for Preventing Bad Breath
- Brush twice daily using a clean toothbrush, which should be replaced every 3 months.
- Use a dentist-recommended toothpaste, ideally containing nano-hydroxyapatite and/or fluoride.
- Floss at least once per day, before brushing, ensuring that you make a c-shape around each tooth to help scrape away plaque and food debris.
- Ask your dentist if you should be using a mouthwash or rinse to help alleviate bad breath.
- Use a tongue scraper to thoroughly clean your tongue and wash away bacteria. Toothbrush bristles are not designed to reach and remove all the bacteria on the tongue that are a common source of bad breath.
Brushing and flossing remove stinky bacteria from your teeth and gums, while a tongue scraper removes it from your tongue. A tongue scraper can be particularly helpful for stubborn bad breath. Use it to scrape from the back of the tongue to the front to remove smelly bacteria that might be missed during standard brushing. Generally speaking, unless your bad breath is due to a health condition, excellent oral hygiene and healthy habits can improve bad breath.
See Your Doctor
If your breath doesn’t improve after making these changes, it’s time to see a professional. Now that you can answer, “Does dry mouth cause bad breath,” you know that sometimes dry mouth may need to be addressed with both your dentist and your doctor. This is just another clear demonstration of the way in which your oral health and your overall health are connected. While a visit to the dentist is often sufficient, bad breath may not always result from oral health issues. Strange-smelling breath that remains after brushing and flossing, or bad bread that smells different from standard bad breath, warrants a visit to your doctor to rule out serious health concerns. In some cases, learning what causes bad breath can be a critical step in treating a serious health problem.
Your breath can be a piece of the puzzle, but to learn more about the mouth-body connection and what causes bad breath from the stomach and other organs, follow dental expert, dentist, and dad Dr. Kami Hoss. His #1 national bestselling book, If Your Mouth Could Talk, can help you understand the vital connection between your oral health and your overall health.
Frequently Asked Questions: Addressing Bad Breath
How often should I brush and floss?
You should brush your teeth twice daily, every day, for two minutes each time. Make sure you’re using a clean toothbrush that’s in good shape, and replace it at least every three months. You should also use a dentist-recommended toothpaste to help clean and protect your teeth. Flossing should take place at least once per day before brushing your teeth.
How often should I have a dental exam and cleaning?
You should see your dentist at least once every six months for a thorough professional cleaning and checkup. During your dental exam, your dentist will be able to identify any areas of concern and address them properly, helping you to avoid ongoing issues. If you’re struggling with bad breath or other oral health problems, talk with your dentist to find a solution.
How can I tell if I have gum disease, tooth decay, or another oral problem?
Your mouth will almost always tell you if you’re not taking good enough care of it. If you notice that you frequently have bad breath, it’s likely you’re not cleaning your mouth adequately each day. If your gums bleed when you brush or floss, you are seeing signs of gum disease. If your teeth are suddenly more sensitive than usual, or you notice changes in color, you probably have some tooth decay or damage. Seeing your dentist regularly is the best way to ensure you catch oral health problems before they worsen and cause serious problems.
What should I do if improving my oral hygiene doesn’t improve my bad breath?
First, see your dentist to ensure that you really are doing everything right with your oral hygiene routine. Make sure they check your tongue health, too. If you get a clean bill of oral health and your dentist cannot identify the problem, make an appointment with your doctor. You may have other health problems causing your bad breath.