What Causes Bad Breath

Anaerobic bacteria that cause halitosis

What causes bad breath and where it originates in your body

97% of bad breath is caused by foul smelling gasses which are emitted from anaerobic bacteria (bacteria that thrive in oxygen deprived environments) as a by-product from the act of digesting proteins. These proteins are found in food particles, dead cells, blood, and mucus. The majority of the foul smelling gasses produced by bacteria are volatile sulfur compounds (VSC), however some of the gasses that cause bad breath are not sulfur derived such as acetone, ammonia, dimethyl amine and trimethylamine. In this article we will call, volatile sulfur compounds and the non-sulfuric compounds that cause bad breath volatile organic compounds (VOC).

VOC's are the gases in breath that give it an unpleasant odor. There are several types of volatile organic compounds and each one has a distinct smell to it, that is why you may have noticed that bad breath from different people doesn't always smell alike.

There are over 600 types of bacteria found in the average mouth, some are these bacteria are beneficial and do not produce VOC's. A person who has chronic halitosis has an unhealthy imbalance in their oral flora, meaning that the bad breath causing bacteria have taken over and are producing VOC's at a high rate.

What causes an unhealthy oral flora?

The factors that cause an unhealthy imbalance of oral flora of too much bad breath causing anaerobic bacteria are simple. Give anaerobic bacteria a friendly environment (low oxygen, dry mouth, slightly acidic), a constant food source (poor oral hygiene), and time and pretty soon you will have a mouth teeming with anaerobic bacteria that produce bad breath.

Friendly Environment + Food + Time = Unhealthy imbalance of oral flora

Here is a list of conditions that contribute to the growth of anaerobic bacteria by creating a favorable environment or food source for them:

Where bad breath originates in your body

We have learned bad breath is caused by odor causing bacteria that break down proteins, but where do these bacteria originate?

The vast majority of cases of bad breath are caused by anaerobic bacteria in the mouth and upper respiratory tract, however there are other ways and other areas where it is caused.

Bad Breath Caused By Foods

There are certain foods to avoid that cause bad breath. Some foods are prone to cause a foul smell to develop on peoples breath more quickly than others. It is common knowledge that foods like garlic and onions cause bad breath but there are more that either lead to a rapid growth in anaerobic bacteria or naturally have smelly odors that smell similar to the VOC's that anaerobic bacteria produce.

To learn more about this read our article on Foods that Cause Bad Breath and How To Get Rid of Garlic Breath.

How To Get Rid of Bad Breath

We learned that bad breath is caused by an overgrowth of bad breath producing anaerobic bacteria. In order to get rid of bad breath, one has to remove the factors that lead to an overgrowth of bacteria in the first place. The factors that lead to an overgrowth of bacteria are shown above with the leading one being poor oral hygiene. Through proper oral hygiene one is able to remove the food source of the bacteria and make their mouths less hospitable to the bacteria. Consistent proper oral hygiene will reduce the population of anaerobic bacteria until they reach healthy low levels where bad breath is not a problem or detectable. The most important part of proper oral hygiene is the mechanical removal of proteins and other particles that the bacteria feed upon.

Read our informative article on How To Get Rid Of Bad Breath to learn more about how to treat bad breath.

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Comments (2)
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Great Info

There is so much good information in this article. It definitely provides a good start. I do wish there was more info provided on the periodontal and gingivitis issue,(Which is what i believe my husband suffers from). Thanks so much for the time and effort provided into this article.

by Toni on Apr 18, 2015 | 8:22 AM

Interesting article. I never knew bad breath could be caused by dieting or fasting.

by Rachelle on Oct 15, 2014 | 1:03 AM
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