Bad breath, or halitosis, affects just about everyone at some point. How many of us haven’t ever had “morning breath” at least? Many assume that bad breath originates in the mouth, but the truth is much more complex. The mouth is certainly one place that bad breath can originate — but it’s not the only one.
In fact, bad breath can start from many, many places in the body. Let’s take a look.
We’ll start with the obvious place: the mouth.
The most common cause of bad breath that originates in the mouth is infection. Gum disease or periodontal disease — an advanced stage of gum disease that starts to affect the teeth and bone — can and will cause bad breath.
Food getting stuck in the mouth and rotting, or simply feeding bacteria, is another problem. Smoking definitely contributes to bad breath as well.
While technically part of the throat, tonsils are another common cause. They can start to collect particles of food, mucus, dead cells, bacteria, and other lovely things to start forming small, foul-smelling stones. These are common in people with tonsillitis, or who have just had an upper respiratory infection.
Keeping your oral hygiene in check and using an anti-bacterial mouthwash will treat most of these causes.
Bad breath can originate in your sinuses, or in your lungs. In both cases, it’s a matter of infections creating foul-smelling particles that travel out of the mouth when you breathe.
Treating the infections will treat the cause of the bad breath.
Post-infection nasal mucus — the stuff that makes your nose “runny” — will also contribute to bad breath.
Bad diet and infections within the stomach can also cause halitosis. While the stomach obviously isn’t connected to your respiratory system, the esophagus does open up into your mouth. Foul odors from deep in your gut can make their way up and out your mouth.
Many medical conditions, and medications, can contribute to halitosis.
Insulin is a common cause of bad breath. It’s not uncommon for diabetics to suffer from chronic halitosis as a side-effect of their insulin medication.
Liver and kidney problems can be surprising origin locations of bad breath. Cirrhosis of the liver can result in a decayed blood smell; late-stage liver failure can result in a sweet, musty aroma.
Even hormonal changes during menstruation can result in bad breath. While the oral bacteria count doesn’t rise, saliva production does reduce. This leave an unpleasant odor in the mouth.