Can bad breath be caused by other diseases? Yes, your bad breath could be caused by a medical problem such as an infection of the respiratory tract involving the nose, throat, windpipe, or lungs. These include sinusitis (inflammation of one of the sinuses or hollow spaces in the bones surrounding the nose), bronchitis (inflammation of the bronchial tubes), or pneumonia (inflammation of the lungs). “When the liver fails, the patient’s breath smells like rotten eggs; persons whose kidney function is seriously impaired give off a fishy odor; diabetics whose blood sugar is badly out of control have acetone breath, with a very sweet, fruity aroma,” said Dr. Isadore Rosenfeld of the New York Hospital in “Doctor, What Should I Eat?” Can bad breath be a psychological problem? How can you determine if you really have bad breath? It’s easy to know if you have bad breath. If your friends avoid you whenever you approach them or if your girlfriend or boyfriend doesn’t want to give you a kiss, chances are it’s because of your offensive mouth odor. To be sure, breathe through your mouth or into a handkerchief or run floss between your teeth.

That should let you know if bad breath is crippling your social life. If you don’t smell anything, you can probably rule out poor oral hygiene which is the most common cause of bad breath. Close your mouth and exhale through your nose. If that smells bad, your bad breath could be coming not from your mouth but elsewhere in the body. A visit to a doctor is in order to fix the problem. In some, the problem can be psychological. This happens to one in four people and is called “halitosis phobia” or the fear of bad breath. People who have this disorder are convinced they have bad breath when, in fact, they don’t. “A middle-aged woman came to me in desperation because, for as long as she could remember, even as a child, she had suffered from bad breath. She had been to countless dentists and doctors and undergone every conceivable blood test, chemical analysis, and lung and intestinal X-rays without an answer. This stigma had left its mark on her personal and professional life. I didn’t know how to help her, but I thought I should first get a whiff of her breath just to see if I could identify some telltale aroma.

Guess what? Her breath was as pure as the driven snow. No wonder her workup had been fruitless. She was suffering from a psychiatric disorder,” revealed Dr. Isadore Rosenfeld of the New York Hospital in “Doctor, What Should I Eat?” So before you spend extra money on medical exams or dental visits, find out if you really have bad breath by doing the mouth/nose test above. Better still; ask your mother or best friend. They’ll tell you the truth! Are mouthwashes effective against bad breath? Mouthwashes and other breath fresheners can cover or hide the offensive odor but their effects are temporary (from about 20 minutes to 2 hours). They may kill bacteria responsible for bad breath but that won’t stop new bacteria from forming quickly. The high alcohol content of some brands can dry out your mouth and ironically, promote bad breath! “Mouthwashes and toothpastes cannot cure any type of halitosis, despite the solemn affirmations of the advertisers. All the products can do is mask the taste, odor, and discomfort for a brief period of time. It’s like putting perfume on garbage; this can be particularly poignant when the garbage is in one’s own mouth.

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