Poor dental hygiene and smoking cause most cases of bad breath in adults. Infections of the mouth and sore throat infections may also cause bad breath. Recently it has been suggested that bad breath is occasionally due to gases absorbed from the intestine and released through the lungs. Unfortunately, even if this is correct, it isn’t clear what can be done about it.
Finally, usually problems such as abscesses of the lung or heavy worm infestations have been reported to cause bad breath, although we haven’t seen these in our practices.
The bad breath of smoking comes from the lungs as well as the mouth. Thus, mouthwashes and breath fresheners do little to help smoker’s breath. Getting rid of this problem is another benefit of giving up cigarettes.
Bad breath in the morning is very common in adults. Flossing and regular tooth brushing should eliminate this problem.
A rare cause of prolonged bad breath in a child is a foreign body in the nose. This is especially common in toddlers who have inserted some small object that remains unnoticed. Often, but not always, there is a white, yellowish, or bloody discharge from one nostril.
Proper dental hygiene, especially flossing, and avoiding smoking will prevent most cases of bad breath. If this doesn’t eliminate the odor, a visit to the doctor or dentist may be helpful.
Mouthwashes are of questionable value. Don’t use mouthwashes that simply perfume the breath. These cover up but don’t treat the underlying problem. If you smoke, bad breath is another good reason to quit.
What to Expect at the Doctor’s Office
The doctor will thoroughly examine the mouth and the nose. A culture may be taken if the patient has a sore throat or mouth sores. Antibiotics may be prescribed. If there is an object in the nose, the doctor will use a special instrument to remove it.