Bad Breath – Is It a Sign of a Health Problem?

Bad BreathBad breath, or halitosis, can stem from a variety of sources. For instance, many people wake up in the morning with breath that is less than fresh. That’s because the mouth goes into a “rest and digest” mode during sleep. Throughout the day, a continual flow of saliva washes away food particles that allow bacteria to collect in the mouth. Because saliva production is reduced during sleep, mouth bacteria is able to remain in place and multiply. This can also occur if an individual is dehydrated or takes certain medications that cause chronic dry mouth. As bacteria grows, it produces volatile sulfur compounds that have unpleasant odors.

Oftentimes, bad breath can also be traced to the consumption of certain foods. For example, as garlic is digested, it produces sulfur-containing gases, one of which is allyl methyl sulfide (AMS). During the digestive process, AMS is metabolized and enters the bloodstream, then slowly exits the body through its various excretions, including the breath. The presence of AMS causes a pungent odor to permeate the air that is expelled from the lungs. Other common foods and beverages that can cause halitosis include onions, heavy spices, cheese, pastrami, orange juice, and soda.

While bad breath can be embarrassing, if it is associated with a dry mouth or diet, it usually can be easily addressed by making nutritional changes, brushing (both teeth and tongue), flossing, and using mouthwash. On the other hand, bad breath that persists or cannot be traced to an identifiable cause should be discussed with a medical professional. That’s because halitosis can sometimes be a sign of an underlying dental or medical issue, such as:

  • Gum disease (gingivitis)
  • Tooth decay
  • Chronic acid reflux or other gastrointestinal problems
  • Sinus or lung infection
  • Liver or kidney disease
  • Diabetes
  • Allergies
  • Cancer

A physician or dentist can help pinpoint the cause of chronic bad breath, provide a professional diagnosis and, if an underlying condition is confirmed, recommend an appropriate treatment plan, as well as explain proper oral hygiene.

If you’d like to discuss halitosis or any other health- or wellness-related topic with a physician, please contact or visit South Tampa Immediate Care. Our walk-in clinic is conveniently located on South Howard Avenue in Tampa, FL, and no appointments are necessary.