What Does Your Breath Odor Say About Your Health…

Halitosis (malodor, fetor oris or simply bad breath), an unpleasant offensive odor from the mouth, is something you can’t ignore. Close associates, friends, and family would certainly agree!

Halitosis affects an estimated 25-30 percent of people globally. It can cause social awkwardness and self-esteem issues leading to anxiety or depression. Many bad breathers tend to keep away from society. It can even ruin relationships.

Could your bad breath be from poor oral hygiene, an underlying health problem, certain medications or simply from savoring food generously tossed with onion or garlic? Regardless, you can take steps to prevent and treat the condition, both at home and with the help of your dentist or physician.

What are the causes of bad breath?

Foods and beverages: What you eat and drink affect your breath. Foods are absorbed into your bloodstream and move to the lungs, affecting the air you exhale. Though brushing or using mouthwash can briefly mask the odor but halitosis persists until the offender is out of your body. Eating strong-flavored foods, such as onions, garlic, some cheese, certain fish and meat can cause your breath to smell, as can coffee, smoking and drinking a lot of alcohol.

Dry mouth: Saliva is needed to cleanse the mouth of harmful bacteria. If you don’t have enough of it, consider yourself in for bad breath.

Your mouth can get dry if you snore or sleep with your mouth open. It makes it a perfect home to harbor bacteria that cause “morning breath.” You’re more likely to snore if you sleep on your back than on your side. 

Regularly skipping meals, or fasting can also reduce the amount of saliva in your mouth causing a “hunger breath” of sulfuric odor. Dieters eating too infrequently can experience this.

Dehydration can also lead to a not-so-fresh breath.

Lack of oral hygiene: When you don’t thoroughly clean your teeth, gums, and tongue daily, bad breath may result from the remnant bits of decaying food and built-up bacteria in your mouth.

Inflammation of the gums (gingivitis) from poor dental hygiene can also cause bad breath and a metallic taste.

Other Health issues

Your breath has an interesting ability to provide clues to your overall health. If you or your dentist can identify the type of odor in your breath, this oral-systemic-link can help signal larger health problems such as:

Upper Respiratory Infections: Colds and coughs can send mucus filled with bacteria through your nose and mouth, affecting your breath. A ‘cheesy breath’ indicates a nasal origin. It usually goes away once you get over your cold.

Bad breath due to sinusitis, nasal polyp, and post-nasal drip linger on as they encourage the build-up of microbes.

Sometimes food debris gets caught in the crevices of your tonsils along with mucus, metabolites, and bacteria. They eventually harden to form tonsil stones or tonsoliths that irritate your throat. Bad breath that accompanies a tonsil infection is a prime indicator of a tonsil stone.

Chronic lung infection: Cystic fibrosis, asthma and bronchitis have a distinct ‘acidic odor’ associated with them.

Lung cancer usually emits a distinct breath odor (so much so that breath is now being used in its early detection).

Liver disease: Liver cirrhosis may cause a breath odor similar to ‘decayed blood or rotten eggs’. Fetor hepaticus – a ‘sweet and musty’ breath points towards liver failure. You might also have other symptoms, including jaundice, due to an abnormal buildup of the naturally occurring pigment bilirubin in your system.

Gastrointestinal problems: Acid Reflux makes the stomach acid flow the wrong way, back into your food pipe. It can give your breath a ‘sour smell’ and bring up bits of food or liquid into your mouth. The acid also can damage your throat and mouth, making it a breeding ground for more smelly bacteria.

H. Pylori, a kind of bacteria linked to stomach cancer and ulcers, can cause ‘stinky breath’. In addition, you can also have nausea, heartburn, stomachache or indigestion. You can get rid of this stubborn bacteria with a long course of medication.

‘fecal odor’ may point towards severe constipation or bowel obstruction. 

Diabetes: Diabetics suffer from inadequate insulin production, causing them to burn fat (instead of sugar) and produce ketones, and thus a ‘ketone breath’ that smells of nail paint. When ketones rise to unsafe levels (uncontrolled diabetes), you’re at risk of a dangerous condition called diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). It imparts a ‘sweet n fruity odor’ to your breath. Seek medical help immediately.

Kidney Failure: Your breath smells ‘fishy’ or ‘ammonia’ like, with a metallic taste in the mouth if your kidneys can’t get rid of waste like they should. Known as ‘uremic fetor’, the high amount of urea in the saliva and its breakdown to ammonia causes the smell. It’s most common in the last stages of kidney failure, known as end-stage renal disease (ESRD). At this point, you are put on dialysis to filter your blood or you may need a kidney transplant.

Menstruation: If temporary halitosis tends to arrive at the same time as your premenstrual syndrome (PMS), pin it down to your hormones. Researches report that women have lower saliva levels during menstruation, which may account for their bad breath.

Medication: Some medicines cause bad breath because they dry out your mouth.

Others like nitrates that treat heart conditions, chemotherapy for cancer, and some sleep aids, release chemicals that can make your breath smell when they break down in your body. This also can happen if you take too many vitamins.

Preventing and Treating Bad Breath

There are a number of simple things you can do to remedy bad breath.

  • Keep track of the foods you eat and try to:
    • Avoid foods and beverages that cause bad breath.
    • Eat more fruits and vegetables.
    • Drink more water.
  • Quit smoking. Avoid alcohol and tobacco.
  • Suck on sugar-free mints or mouth-wetting lozenges if your mouth tends to get dry.
  • Brush your teeth, gums, and tongue with fluoride toothpaste, preferably after each meal. Make sure to reach the gum line as well as tooth surfaces.
  • Change your toothbrush every 2 to 3 months.
  • Floss at least once a day.
  • Rinse with an antiseptic mouthwash twice a day.
  • It’s possible to carefully dislodge a tonsil stone at home with a toothbrush or cotton swab. Do not attempt to use sharp instruments. Gargling with warm saline water after you eat, helps. Talk to your doctor if you get them often.
  • If you wear dentures, remove them while you sleep. Brush and soak them during the night in a disinfecting solution.
  • Clean braces and retainers as directed by your dentist.

When to See Your Dentist About Bad Breath?

Be sure to see your dentist at least twice a year for regular checkups and professional cleaning. Your dentist can spot and treat your tooth and gum diseases – the major culprits of bad breath.

If changes you make don’t help, the dentist may refer you to a doctor to see whether an underlying health problem could be causing the bad breath.

You can also go over the list of your medications with the doctor to see if any of them could be contributing to the problem.

If you chew tobacco, get guidance from your doctor on ways to kick the habit.

Homoeopathy For Bad Breath

Various Homoeopathic remedies given for bad breath on a holistic approach are:

    1. Pulsatilla: If you have bad breath with a dry mouth due to decreased salivary secretions, Pulsatilla is a very effective remedy.
    2. Merc sol: Is good if you have a sweet, metallic taste in the mouth and spongy gums that recede and bleed easily. Most recommended if you have overactive salivary glands with a constantly moist mouth. Also useful for bad breath from dental cavities.
    3. Carbo veg: If bad breath results from infections such as gingivitis causing bleeding and pus discharge from the gums, its Carbo veg.
    4. Carbolic acid: Severe bad breath along with constipation, burning in the mouth, dry painful lips, bloated abdomen, cramps, and nausea.
    5. Kreosote: Bad breath from dental caries. There can also be bleeding from your gums due to teeth decay.
    6. Belladonna: Bad breath resulting from a throat infection. There may be accompanying fever.
    7. Nux vomica: Bad breath along with cold. Also effective in indigestion and constipation.
    8. Arnica Montana: This homoeopathic remedy is good for fetid breath after tooth extraction or injury, due to bleeding or decaying blood.
    9. Nitric acid: Spongy, bleeding gums with loose teeth, clean tongue. Halitosis related to kidney disorders. Systemic weakness and strong-smelling urine.
    10. Borax: Bad breath linked with aphthous ulcers in the mouth which might bleed on touch. Also good for fungal infection in the mouth.
    11. Pyrogen: Is effective for bad-breath of septic origin. Terribly fetid taste with horrible breath, tongue red, dry, smooth as if varnished. There is high-grade fever and coffee-ground vomiting.
    12. Iodum: Surely works for halitosis associated with loose teeth and spongy bleeding gums. Foul ulcers & excessive salivation.
    13. Asafoetida: Is effective for bad breath linked with incessant belching, distension of abdomen and fetid flatus.
    14. Graphites: Is specific for rotten odor from mouth. Breath smells like urine. Burning blisters on the tongue with much salivation. Kidney diseases.
    15. Kali Chlor: For halitosis due to follicular stomatitis and most acute ulcerations in the mouth.


Note::  Homoeopathy offers a permanent remedy for Bad Breath, is non-toxic and can be used by anyone including infants and pregnant and nursing women.