Health Tip: What Causes Bad Breath?

Bad breath, or halitosis, can be a major problem, especially when you're about to snuggle with your sweetie or whisper a joke to your friend. The good news is that bad breath can often be prevented with some simple steps.

Bad breath is caused by odor-producing bacteria that grow in the mouth. When you don't brush and flossregularly, bacteria accumulate on the bits of food left in your mouth and between your teeth. The sulfur compounds released by these bacteria make your breath smell.
Certain foods, especially ones like garlic and onions that contain pungent oils, can contribute to bad breath because the oils are carried to your lungs and out through your mouth. Smoking is also a major cause of bad breath.

There are lots of myths about taking care of bad breath. Here are three things you may have heard about bad breath that are not true:

Myth #1: Mouthwash will make bad breath go away.
Mouthwash only gets rid of bad breath temporarily. If you do use mouthwash, look for an antiseptic (kills the germs that cause bad breath) and plaque-reducing one with a seal from the American Dental Association (ADA). When you're deciding which dental products to toss into your shopping cart, it's always a good idea to look for those that are accepted by the ADA. Also, ask your dentist for recommendations.

Myth #2: As long as you brush your teeth, you shouldn't have bad breath.
The truth is that most people only brush their teeth for 30 to 45 seconds, which just doesn't cut it. To sufficiently clean all the surfaces of your teeth, you should brush for at least 2 minutes at least twice a day. Remember to brush your tongue, too — bacteria love to hang out there. It's equally important to floss because brushing alone won't remove harmful plaque and food particles that become stuck between your teeth and gums.

Myth #3: If you breathe into your hand, you'll know when you have bad breath.
Wrong! When you breathe, you don't use your throat the same way you do when you talk. When you talk, you tend to bring out the odors from the back of your mouth (where bad breath originates), which simply breathing doesn't do. Also, because we tend to get used to our own smells, it's hard for a person to tell if he or she has bad breath.
If you're concerned about bad breath, make sure you're taking care of your teeth and mouth properly. Some sugar-free gums and mints can temporarily mask odors, too.

If you brush and floss properly and visit your dentist for regular cleanings, but your bad breath persists, you may have a medical problem like sinusitis or gum disease. Call your doctor or dentist if you suspect a problem. They can figure out if something else is behind your bad breath and help you take care of it.

Bad breath: Causes and risk factors.

Conditions and circumstances that cause or place a person at risk for having halitosis.

In most cases bad breath (halitosis) is caused by the presence of oral bacteria. There can be, however, other factors that influence the odor associated with one's breath and, in fact, the quality of a person's breath will ultimately depend on a number of different variables.

The next portion of our discussion details some of these specific risk factors and conditions. When reading this information you should take notice of the fact that many of the items we list directly relate to:

  • Oral bacteria.
  • Conditions which promote the growth of oral bacteria.
  • Not cleaning, or not being able to clean, those areas where oral bacteria reside.
Later on our pages will describe in greater detail how bacteria cause mouth odors and outline methods for cleaning these bacteria away. Right now however, at this point in our discussion, just realize that anything that promotes the growth of oral bacterial will most likely heighten a person's problems with bad breath too.


How do foods cause bad breath?

Everyone knows that certain foods have a reputation for causing bad breath. Two of the most notorious ones are garlic and onions.

When we eat our digestive system breaks the food we have consumed down in to its component molecules, some of which have very unpleasant and characteristic odors. As these molecules are created they are absorbed into our circulatory system so they can subsequently be distributed throughout the remainder of our body as nourishment.

As our blood travels through our lungs some of these molecules will be released into them. As a result, as we exhale our breath will contain some of these offending molecules, thus producing breath malodor.

While this type of bad breath can be annoying or embarrassing, this is not the type of breath problem we discuss on the subsequent pages of this topic. Bad breath caused by the consumption of certain foods will resolve on its own in a day or so as your body completes the process of breaking down and utilizing, or else excreting, the offending molecules. You can control this type of breath problem simply by avoiding or minimizing your consumption of these foods.


Saliva leaves deposits on teeth (pellicle). Certain bacteria in the mouth stick to the pellicle divide and form colonies. This is how dental plaque forms, and plaque is the most widely recognized precursor to oral disease.

80% of bacteria that colonize dental plaque are cocci, such as Streptococcus sanguinis and Streptococcus mutans. Strep, such as these, produce acids that de-mineralize tooth enamel and lead to the development of dental caries, tooth decay, and infection of gum tissue.

In several studies, CloSYS has been shown to kill these Strep species quickly (within 10 seconds) and thoroughly (100%). Regular use of CloSYS can halt the presence and growth of these Strep species in the mouth. Lower amounts of these Strep can reduce plaque, inhibit de-mineralization of tooth enamel, and help stop the onset of gum disease and tooth decay.

 More Americans young and old may need to protect themselves this flu season as fears continue to spread beyond the common virus to new variations, such as swine flu (aka H1N1 virus).

So in addition to a regular seasonal flu shot, doctors will offer a two-dose shot to protect against the H1N1 virus a strain already responsible for hundreds of deaths, and gastrointestinal symptoms in addition to the more common flu symptoms.

How is Novel H1N1 different than the seasonal flu?

Novel H1N1 is a novel virus, meaning humans, until recently, have never been infected with this virus. The virus changed in a way that enabled it to go from infecting only animals to infecting humans as well. Novel viruses are dangerous because our immune systems have no previous experience battling them. Although the seasonal flu is most dangerous to those with weak immune systems, such as the very young and the elderly, the Novel H1N1 virus appears to be a threat to healthy, young adults. Novel H1N1 viruses are not spread by food. You cannot get infected with Novel H1N1 virus from eating pork or pork products. Eating properly handled and cooked pork products is safe.

What can I do to prevent getting sick?

  • Wash your hands with soap and hot water to get rid of germs and to prevent the spread of disease. If you do not have soap and water, use a waterless hand gel with an alcohol base of at least 60%.
  • Avoid kissing or shaking hands with people if you suspect an illness,
    and do not share food, drinks or utensils.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread this way.
  • Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
  • Get the seasonal flu vaccine, and if you are in a risk group for Novel
    H1N1, get that vaccine when it becomes available.
  • Use CloSYS toothpaste and mouth rinse at least twice per day, and rinse more often (3-4 times) if a sore throat arises. Keeping the mouth healthy is vital to good overall health.
  • Rinse your toothbrush often with CloSYS rinse at least once per week and do not reuse your toothbrush if you become sick.

Starting Early

Common flu shots are available before the regular flu season, which starts in October, so it's possible to get protected from the virus early. However, the vaccine may wear off in six months, some health officials say. So if you opt to get your flu shot soon, your doctor may recommend that you get a booster shot sometime in the winter.

Study: Bad breath may be linked to stomach ulcers, cancer

Persistent halitosis could be an early clue to something more serious, according to a new report in the Journal of Medical Microbiology.

Helicobacter pylori, the same bacteria that causes stomach ulcers and is a cause of some gastric cancers, was present in 21 out of 326 Japanese people with halitosis and 16 out of 102 people with gum disease who took part in a research study in Fukuoka, Japan.

"Recently, scientists discovered that H. pylori can live in the mouth," said Dr. Nao Suzuki of Fukuoka Dental College. "We wanted to determine whether the bacteria can cause bad breath, so we tested patients complaining of halitosis for the presence of H. pylori."

"Halitosis is a common problem in humans, and bad breath is largely caused by periodonitis, tongue debris, poor oral hygiene and badly fitted fillings," said Suzuki. "Bacteria produce volatile compounds that smell unpleasant, including hydrogen sulphide, methyl mercaptan and dimethyl sulphide. Doctors often measure the levels of these compounds to diagnose the problem. Gastrointestinal diseases are also generally believed to cause halitosis."

An estimated 20 to 80 percent of people in the developed world and over 90 percent of people in the developing carry the bacterium.

"Although the presence of H. pylori in the mouth does not directly cause bad breath, it is associated with periodontal disease, which does cause bad breath," said Suzuki. "We now need to look into the relationship between H. pylori in the mouth and in the stomach. We hope to discover the role of the mouth in transmitting H. pylori stomach infections in the near future."

The patients in the study carrying H. pylori also were carrying Prevotella intermedia, another type of bacteria and had more blood in their saliva.

There are more than 600 different species of bacteria that can live in the mouth. Scientists have named only about half of them.
Gum disease (gingivitis) often occurs during pregnancy. Somewhere between one- and two-thirds of all pregnant women get inflammation and bleeding of the gums. Estrogen and progesterone increase during pregnancy and are thought to contribute to gingivitis.

Inflamed and occasionally bleeding gums represent an opportunity for infection. The bacteria associated with gum disease have also been shown to be related to pre-term and low-birth weight babies. The bacteria may be passed from mother to child through the blood stream.
Gum disease comes as dental plaque build along the margin between the gum and the tooth. Women who practice good home oral health care can reduce inflammation and bleeding of the gums.
CloSYS Complete Oral Health System - CloSYS Toothpaste and Oral Rinse - work together to break-up and prevent the formation of dental plaque, quickly kill bacteria associated with gum disease and inhibit their return, and oxidize the volatile sulfur compounds (VSCs) that enable tissue to become infected and inflamed.

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