Bad Breath? Body Odor? Causes, Treatments, And Prevention

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Bad Breath

Halitosis, or more commonly referred to as bad breath, is a common problem that affects 25% of people regularly.  After tooth decay and problems with the gums, halitosis is the third leading reason people seek dental care. While common, there are many specific causes and treatments for people suffering from bad breath (1).

Common Causes of Bad Breath

Bad breath can be caused both by everyday things that can affect even the most healthy person, but can also have medical causes as well (2).

Everyday Causes:

  • Photo of Onion and GarlicFood – Certain foods, like onions, garlic, or fish can lead to halitosis.  While this bad breath goes away rather quickly, if food gets stuck between your teeth, this can also cause bacteria to grow, which is what causes bad breath.
  • Tobacco – Both smoking and chewing tobacco leaves chemicals in your mouth.  These chemicals are known to leave your breath smelling bad.
  • Dentures and Braces – Both can cause food particles to get stuck more easily in the mouth. These food particles will continue to grow bacteria, causing breath to smell.
  • Morning Breath – One of the most common causes, many people experience bad breath in the morning.  Because saliva production is slowed during the night, bacteria grows, causing bad breath when people first wake up.
  • Pregnancy – Common symptoms from pregnancy, like morning sickness and hormonal changes, can cause halitosis.

Medical Causes:

  • Poor Oral Health – People who do not regularly brush or floss their teeth tend to have bad breath.  This can be caused by food particles left behind or other issues, such as gum disease and tooth decay.
  • Dry Mouth – Xerostomia, or dry mouth, is a lack of saliva production.  Without normal amounts of saliva, bacteria grows more quickly inside the mouth, giving off bad breath.
  • Medications – Many medicines, like those to treat allergies or diuretics, have a side effect of dry mouth.
  • Diabetes – When a diabetic’s blood sugars are not well controlled, a fruity smell can come from the breath.
  • Other Health Issues – Many other health problems can lead to halitosis.  Some of these health issues include the common cold or flu, tonsil stones, bronchitis, and even some liver or kidney problems.
Take Home Note:
There are many causes of bad breath. Both everyday issues as well as certain health problems can cause halitosis.

Prevention Is Key!

Because many of the causes of bad breath come from everyday problems, it can be very easy to prevent bad breath from happening. Keeping up with your oral hygiene, like brushing and flossing your teeth twice a day, is the number one way to prevent bad breath. Other common prevention techniques include (3):

  • Stop smokingPhoto of Breaking Cigarette
  • Eat a balanced diet
  • Decrease your sugar intake
  • Reduce alcohol and coffee consumption
  • Drink water
  • Chew sugar-free gum
Take Home Note:
With a few simple changes in your life, it is easy to keep bad breath to a minimum.

When Should You Seek Treatment?

If typical prevention techniques are not helping with your bad breath, there could be a more serious underlying cause for your bad breath. Your first stop should be a dentist. Dentists can determine if the bad breath is from an oral cause (i.e. gum disease) or from a more internal problem. If not from an oral health problem, a dentist will be able to refer you to a family doctor who can look more closely into what is causing your bad breath (4).

Take Home Note:
While bad breath usually is not serious, if it persists, it can be caused by a health problem.  If you are unsure about what is causing your bad breath, consult with a dental professional.

Body Odor

Any person who has gone through puberty has most likely experienced body odor.  During puberty, the apocrine sweat glands develop, which are the sweat glands usually found in your armpits and groin area.  While sweat is actually odorless, when it comes in contact with bacteria commonly found on the skin, a foul odor can occur. Because women usually do not sweat as much as men, men usually are found to have more body odor. Being overweight, spicy and flavorful foods, and some medical conditions and medicines can also increase body odor (5).

Causes of Body Odor

Sweaty man in blue shirtBody odor is most commonly caused by sweating.  Everyone has two types of sweat glands, eccrine and apocrine glands.  Eccrine glands are found all over the body and secrete a water like substance to help keep your body cool, whether there is hot weather or you are exercising.  The apocrine glands, on the other hand, secrete lipids and proteins. While these do not give off a scent, the bacteria that live on your skin will feed off this secretion, which will give off a foul odor (6).

Take Home Note:
While sweat is actually odorless, it can combine with the bacteria on our skin, causing a bad smell.

Are There Home Remedies For Body Odor?

There are many ways to prevent body odor from occuring.  These 6 ideas will help you remedy your body odor at home (7):

  1. Keep Your Body Clean – Showering daily can keep the bacteria living on your skin at bay.  With less bacteria to mix with your sweat, less body odor will form.
  2. Antibacterial Soap – Because sweat is odorless until it mixes with the bacteria on your skin, killing off that bacteria will help keep your body from smelling.
  3. Dry Off After Showers – Bacteria thrive in moist environments.  After a shower, make sure to dry off completely to help prevent bacteria from growing again.
  4. Deodorants and Antiperspirants – While these work in different ways, they both help to keep body odor to a minimum.  Deodorant helps to mask the odor of the bacteria, while antiperspirants decrease the amount of sweating.
  5. Wear Clean Clothes – When you sweat, the sweat and bacteria can cling to your clothes, making them smell.  Change your clothes often and do laundry to keep this bacteria off of your clothing.
  6. Eat Less Harsh Foods – Foods like garlic, or spicy foods can make you sweat more.  Decreasing these foods in your diet will help to decrease the amount you sweat, therefore decreasing the amount of body odor.
Take Home Note:
There are many easy remedies for body odor.  Simply keeping yourself clean and using a deodorant or antiperspirant can help minimize body odor.

When To Consult A Doctor About Body Odor?

Patient Consulting Male DoctorWhile body odor is a common problem among all people, excessive body odor can be a sign of an underlying health issue.  Things like menopause or an overactive thyroid can cause excessive sweating, while diabetes or disease in the liver or kidney can change your sweat all together.  You should consult your doctor if you notice any of the following changes in your body(8):

  • Night sweats
  • Sweating more than usual, without any reason
  • Cold Sweats
  • Change of smell
  • Sweating that disrupts your day
Take Home Note:
While everyone experiences body odor, if yours seems to persist, or you notice changes to your sweat, it is important to consult a physician.


Both bad breath and body odor are a common problem among adults.  There are many causes for both, but there are also many home remedies and prevention techniques that can help keep bad smells to a minimum.  If you feel either your bad breath or body odor are disrupting your life, it is important to consult with a doctor.

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