Count the number of people in the room with you right now. Is it just you? You and your spouse? You and several co-workers? Whatever the number, divide it in half. That is the number of people in the room that probably have halitosis – and one of them could be you, even if you don’t realize it.
According to a study published in the Journal of National Science, Biology, and Medicine, slightly more than 50 percent of the general population has halitosis, also known simply as “chronic bad breath.” Halitosis is more than just forgetting to brush after eating a tasty, garlic-filled meal of spaghetti, however, or even chowing down on onions right before bed. Halitosis is a disagreeable smell that emanates from your mouth and is often caused by poor oral health. However, that diagnosis leaves many patients still in the dark since you can have halitosis even if you brush and floss regularly.
Not surprisingly, about nine in every 10 cases of halitosis is caused by the patient having one or more untreated cavities. However, in patients who do not have cavities, the underlying causes of halitosis may surprise you.
Here are three surprising things that could be causing your bad breath:
1. Tonsil Stones
As kids, most of us knew someone who “had their tonsils out” and, as a result, got to eat a lot of ice cream for a few days while they recovered. Today, many doctors who previously would have prescribed tonsil removal no longer do so, and, as a result, many adults have their tonsils today. Those tonsils do really useful things, like detecting bacteria and viruses, swelling up with white blood cells and antibodies, and fending off viral and bacterial infections. Unfortunately, every item of food and droplet of drink you swallow passes over them as well, and these foods can calcify over time, causing “tonsil stones.” The stones release aromatic compounds – and no, we don’t mean delightful smells of roses and cinnamon – that can cause bad breath.
If you think you might have tonsil stones, ask your dentist during your next visit. They can identify the problem, if there is one, and recommend a specialist to help with removal or, in some cases, remove the stones while you are in the office.
2. Your weight-loss journey
Did you manage to keep that New Year’s resolution last year and lose a bunch of weight, gain a bunch of muscle, and turn yourself into a lean, mean, exercise machine? If so, your hot new body could be the source of your nasty new breath. Don’t worry. You don’t have to start chomping down on the doughnuts again just to sweeten your mouth back up, but you do need to monitor your breath in case you are in ketosis. Ketosis, which is the goal for many “keto dieters,” creates a sweet, fruity odor in your mouth that is less than appealing to most people. On top of this, keto diets often reduce saliva production, which also contributes to chronic bad breath.
You can battle keto-diet bad breath by increasing your water intake, which will help flush ketones from your body, eating less protein while increasing your intake of healthy fats like avocados and nuts, and slightly increasing your carb intake by no more than about 5 grams — all ways that keto dieters keep the pounds off and the chronic bad breath under control.
3. That “power shot” you picked up at the coffee shop
We all know how bad it can be when you get a blast in the face of fresh (or recently fresh) coffee breath. But hey, that’s what those powerful little mints are for, right? Wrong. Yeah, sure, they are supposed to help mask the bean odor and they do, for a few minutes, but they do nothing when it comes to the way that caffeine suppresses your saliva production once they have dissolved. So if you powered up your latte with an extra shot of espresso, you probably powered up your halitosis for the day as well.
Sadly, we have bad news. You can’t really beat caffeine breath and maintain that four-cups-a-day addiction you’ve been working on ever since Quarantine 2020 and remote schooling came together to wreck just about every parents’ semblance of a real workday or a good night’s sleep. However, you can put a dent in it by drinking lots of water to flush your system, stimulate saliva production, and keep your mouth clear of excess food particles (gross, right?) and bacteria.
How Do You Know If You Have Halitosis?
So, how do you know if you have halitosis? After all, most people will not tell you that your breath stinks (although you have a pretty decent shot at getting a straight answer from your toddler). If you have a constantly stale taste in your mouth, dry mouth, white tongue, or other digestive or respiratory issues, you are quite likely the “one” in the one-in-two-people-have-halitosis statistic.
Want more straight talk on how to spot halitosis and how to beat it? Talk to your dentist! Since halitosis is usually an oral health issue, they are probably the best person to consult when it comes to dealing with the problem and beating it for good.
At Dr. Pat Crawford’s dental clinic, we will work with you to figure out the best way to keep your mouth happy and healthy. Just give us a call or visit our website at PatCrawfordDDS.com.