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Q: “What causes bad breath?”

Written on: September 23rd, 2012 by: cathay in Blog PostsQ & A's

Q:  “Why do some people have terrible breath?”

According to medical resources such as the Mayo Clinic, there are a variety of reasons why a person’s breath may smell bad, ranging from poor dental care to what that person just ate or drank.  When it’s an ongoing condition, it can be an indicator of an underlying illness.  It is also known as “halitosis.”

Another basic definition is given by Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary.

The main causes of bad breath all focus on a person’s mouth.  Dental hygiene is touted as the the most common cause as well as the most treatable prevention, as explained by WebMD .  They include dry mouth, post nasal drip, and some respiratory illnesses (like pneumonia).  Of course, tobacco use is another reason for stinky breath.

It’s interesting to note that some foods, such as garlic and onions, have a double way of causing bad breath.  The first is through their odor lingering on a person’s tongue and mouth.  The second is through the process of absorbing and digesting odoriferous foods, as explained on  MedicineNet.

Sometimes we can’t tell if our own breath smells bad.  According to MedicineNet, the most common method used (cupping your hand and breathing into it, then quickly smelling it) is not a good indicator.  MedicineNet recommends licking the back of your hand, then letting it dry and taking a whiff (or asking someone you trust to be honest).

Halitosis doesn’t have to be an ever-lasting problem, and all sources seem to agree that the best way to create sweet-smelling breath is to brush and floss, use an antibacterial mouthwash, have regular dental check-ups, and to generally be in good health.  Further reading on MedicineNet gives tips for how to control bad breath Your sweetheart, family, friends, and colleagues will be grateful!

Thank you for asking, and please feel free to come back to your Delaware Library anytime with questions. We appreciate your service in person and online through our Ask a Librarian Delaware virtual reference service at:

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