Ask the Experts: Could my chronic bad breath be a sign of something more serious?

By Kristy Bleizeffer Mar 23, 2017

Bad breath makes social interactions awkward for everyone, whether you're the giver of the offensive whiffs or the receiver. 

When gum, extra brushings and mouthwash don’t seem to help, it may be time to take a more active approach to controlling your halitosis.

Request an appointment at Mesa Primary Care

Debbie Griner, a certified family nurse practitioner at Mesa Primary Care, offers this advice for dealing with bad breath and when it could mean something more serious.

What is halitosis?

Halitosis is, quite simply,  bad breath. It has many causes, but  the most common are:

  • Food particles in and around your teeth
  • Using tobacco products
  • Poor dental hygiene
  • Dry mouth
  • Side effects from certain medications
  • Infections or other conditions of the mouth, nose or throat
  • Certain diseases

How does diet affect bad breath?

Certain foods, such as  onions, garlic and spices can cause bad breath. After you digest these foods, they enter your bloodstream and are carried to your lungs and affect your breath.

What can I do to prevent bad breath?

If your halitosis is not related to a more serious health condition, you can try a variety of lifestyle changes:

  • Brush your teeth after you eat.
  • Floss at least once daily.
  • Brush your tongue.
  • Clean dentures or dental appliances.
  • Avoid tobacco and drink plenty of water to keep your mouth moist.
  • Avoid foods such as onions or garlic that can cause bad breath and limit sugary foods.
  • Change your toothbrush when it becomes frayed, about every 3 to 4 months.
  • Schedule regular dental check-ups.

Could persistent bad breath be a sign of something more serious?

Some diseases such as cancers and metabolic disorders can cause a distinctive bad breath. Chronic reflux of stomach contents can also be associated with bad breath.

In young children, a foreign body such as piece of food lodged in a nostril can cause bad breath. It can also be a sign of an infection and you should consult your pediatrician or primary care provider.

When should I see a doctor?

If your bad breath persists after making the lifestyle changes above, see your dentist. If your dentist suspects a more serious condition is causing your bad breath, make an appointment with your healthcare provider.

Debbie Griner F.N.P.

Debbie Griner is a certified family nurse practitioner at Mesa Primary Care. She worked in the ICUs of large metropolitan teaching hospitals for many years and has also worked as a nurse practitioner in neurosurgery, pediatrics, cardiology and cardiac surgery. She and her family moved to Casper in 2007 where she was a nurse practitioner at Wyoming Cardiopulmonary Services and at Wyoming Cardiac Surgery, working with patients in both the inpatient and outpatient settings.  

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