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Sure Signs You Have "Bad Breath" Without Knowing It

How to tell if you have bad breath. 

Bad breath can happen to anyone and if you've ever gotten that not so fresh feeling in your mouth, you're not alone.  The issue is common, but believe it or not, many people with bad breath don't know it. So how can you tell if you have bad breath? Eat This, Not That! Health spoke with Dr. Tomi Mitchell, a Board-Certified Family Physician with Holistic Wellness Strategies who shared everything to know about bad breath and what to do about it. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


What Causes Bad Breath?

bad breath

Dr. Mitchell explains, "Bad breath, also known as halitosis, can be embarrassing and frustrating. While there are many potential causes of bad breath, the most common culprit is poor oral hygiene. When food particles and bacteria are allowed to build up on teeth and tongue, they can release foul-smelling gases."

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Preventing Bad Breath

Man brushing teeth

"There are a few simple steps that you can take to prevent bad breath and keep your mouth healthy," says Dr. Tomi Mitchell. "First, practice good oral hygiene by brushing and flossing regularly. This will help remove food particles and bacteria from your teeth and gums, which can cause bad breath. Additionally, be sure to brush your tongue to remove bacteria buildup. You should also see your dentist regularly for cleanings and checkups.

Second, avoid foods that can cause bad breath. These include strong-smelling foods like garlic and onions and sugary foods that can promote the growth of bacteria in the mouth. If you eat these foods, be sure to brush your teeth afterward.

Finally, stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water. This will help to wash away food particles and bacteria that can cause bad breath. Saliva also helps to keep your mouth moist and healthy. So be sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day."

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How to Tell if You Have Bad Breath

Young woman is looking on her tongue in the mirror

Dr. Tomi Mitchell shares, "One way to tell if you have bad breath is by using a mirror. Stick out your tongue and take a close look at it. If you see any white or yellow patches, you likely have bad breath. Another way to tell if you have bad breath is by licking the back of your hand and smelling it. If it smells sour or foul, you probably have bad breath. You can also ask a trusted friend or family member if they think you have bad breath. If they give you an honest answer and say that you do, you will likely need to do something about your breath. There are many ways to freshen your breath, so don't worry if you have bad breath— there's always something you can do!"

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Treating Bad Breath

Will brush your teeth. Close up, toothpaste on toothbrush

Dr. Mitchell states, "One common morning complaint is bad breath. When you first wake up, your mouth is typically dry, leading to an unpleasant smell. There are a few things you can do to help combat this. First, make sure to brush your teeth thoroughly. This will remove any food particles that may be stuck in your teeth and gums, and it will also help stimulate saliva production. In addition, try using a tongue scraper to clean the surface of your tongue. This will remove any bacteria that may be causing bad breath. Finally, drink plenty of water to keep your mouth hydrated throughout the day. By following these simple tips, you can help control bad breath at bay. If the bad breath is caused by a condition outside of the mouth, it's essential to treat the underlying condition. Despite optimum oral hygiene, the bad breath will continue, if the root (no pun intended) causes are not adequately addressed."

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If You Have Liver Disease You May Have Bad Breath

doctor patient

"When most people think of bad breath, they think of morning breath or the smell of garlic," Dr. Mitchell says. "However, bad breath can also signify a more severe condition, such as liver disease. The liver is responsible for many essential functions, including filtering toxins from the blood and producing bile to help with digestion. Liver disease can cause a build-up of toxins in the blood, leading to bad breath. In addition, the liver may not be able to produce enough bile, leading to indigestion and a foul smell in the mouth." 

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If You Have a Tonsil Abscess You May Have Bad Breath

Doctor checking woman throat with the medical stick

"Halitosis, or bad breath, is a common problem with many causes," Dr. Mitchell states. "One potential cause is an oral infection, such as a tonsil abscess. Tonsil abscesses are pockets of pus that form in the tonsils, and they can cause bad breath due to the collection of bacteria. The bacteria produce sulfur compounds that are responsible for the unpleasant odor. In addition, tonsil abscesses can be painful and make it difficult to swallow. If left untreated, they can Burst and release pus into the throat. As a result, it is essential to see a doctor if you think you may have a tonsil abscess."

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Smoking Causes Bad Breath

Business man in glasses and warm clothes smoking cigarette on the street

According to Dr. Mitchell, "Smoking is one of the leading causes of bad breath. When you smoke, the nicotine and other chemicals in the cigarettes stick to your teeth and gums, causing them to become stained. As the stains build up, they begin to emit an unpleasant odor. In addition, smoking dries out your mouth, reducing saliva production and preventing your mouth from cleansing itself naturally. As a result, the bacteria that cause bad breath can thrive, leading to an even worse odor. In addition to causing bad breath, smoking also increases your risk for gum disease, tooth decay, and other oral health problems. If you smoke and are concerned about bad breath, talk to your dentist about ways to reduce the odor. Quitting smoking is the best way to freshen your breath and improve your overall oral health."

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If You Have Chronic Reflux You May Have Bad Breath

woman having or symptomatic reflux acids,Gastroesophageal reflux disease, drinking water

Dr. Mitchell explains, "Bad breath, or Halitosis, is generally caused by poor dental hygiene practices, such as infrequent brushing and flossing. However, sometimes the underlying cause of bad breath is a more serious health concern, such as acid reflux. In these cases, simply improving oral care habits will not be enough to freshen your breath. The only way to eliminate the problem is to treat the underlying condition. Acid reflux occurs when stomach acid flows back up into the esophagus, and it is often accompanied by heartburn and a sour taste in the mouth. In addition to causing bad breath, acid reflux can also lead to tooth enamel erosion and problems with swallowing. If you suspect that your bad breath may be due to acid reflux, see your doctor for diagnosis and treatment. With proper medical treatment, you can get rid of bad breath and enjoy fresh breath once again."

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Heather Newgen
Heather Newgen has two decades of experience reporting and writing about health, fitness, entertainment and travel. Heather currently freelances for several publications. Read more about Heather
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