If you’ve ever talked to somebody with bad breath, then you know how unpleasant and distracting it is. Each time someone with halitosis opens their mouth to speak, you feel a sudden urge to gag and vomit. You can’t even focus on what they are saying because all of your concentration is spent holding back your gag reflex!
You might wonder, “Does this guy even know how bad his breath smells?” Clearly, this person doesn’t, and nobody has told him so he’s none the wiser. Then your thoughts start shifting. “If he doesn’t know he has bad breath, what if I also have bad breath and don’t realize it?” You begin to make a connection.
“What if this person with bad breath is somehow spreading the bad breath to me?!” You politely excuse yourself, pop a breath mint, and hope that your breath remains untainted by foul odors. This scenario is highly exaggerated, but Is there any merit to this thought? Can halitosis spread from person to person like the flu?
Table of Contents
Is Halitosis Contagious?
Thankfully, halitosis is generally not contagious. Imagine if it were true. Would somebody with smelly farts cause you to have fouler flatulence as well? How about body odor, smelly hair, or any other smells?
When you take a whiff of somebody’s bad breath, that’s exactly what you’re getting: just the smell. Inhaling some of their breath, no matter how much it smells like a rotting carcass, will not cause your breath to smell the same.
Let’s take it a step further. What if you kissed someone with bad breath? And not just a peck on the lips. A full-on french kiss where tongues are embracing and saliva is being transferred. Surely that will cause you to have bad breath, right?
Again, the answer is no as long as their halitosis is not caused by some disease and is merely the result of strongly flavored foods they had. The bacteria that results in halitosis will remain in the other person’s mouth.
Halitosis Isn’t Contagious, But Other Conditions Are
Even though halitosis is not transferred even if you french kiss someone, other maladies are fair game. As such, you may contract something that, if left untreated, can eventually result in halitosis.
For instance, oral thrush is a type of yeast infection that can be passed from one person to another by kissing. It is known to cause bad breath, in addition to a whole host of other oral issues.
If you were to contract oral thrush, bad breath will probably be the least of your issues. Some STDs can also cause bad breath as a side effect.
If the person you are in close proximity to has a runny nose or head cold, they may pass that onto you if they sneeze on you or spread their germs in some way. The side effects caused by the common cold can potentially cause you to suffer from halitosis as well.
As a general rule of thumb, if you interact with someone with bad breath, you will not develop it yourself just because they have it. So you don’t have to keep your distance from this person for fear of being infected with their bad breath, unless you just find them really unpleasant to be around.
What Causes Halitosis?
Even though halitosis generally isn’t contagious, you should understand how someone might develop it in the first place. Just because you don’t have halitosis right now, doesn’t mean that you won’t develop it sometime down the road.
Most commonly, halitosis is the result of bacterial growth in your mouth that is left unchecked. Every time you eat, food particles become trapped between your teeth and you have to clean them out as soon as possible.
If the food debris remains in your mouth, they will begin to rot and that alone already produces a bad smell. However, it gets worse. The bacteria found in your plaque biofilm will begin to feed on the rotting food and produce a smelly discharge.
Plaque contains millions of bacteria, and these bacteria will cause your gums to swell up and bleed, all the while producing a smelly discharge. If plaque is not removed, it will harden into tartar which can only be removed by a dentist with dental instruments.
The more food debris is left in your mouth, the more food you are supplying the harmful bacteria and the worse your breath will smell.
Can You Cure Halitosis?
You cannot cure halitosis in the sense that halitosis is often the result of an underlying problem, and you should not be dealing with the bad breath directly. Otherwise, one would simply eat a breath mint and call it a day, which would mask the smell but never truly get rid of it. By addressing the root cause, you can treat the condition and therefore remove the bad breath.
Here are some common ways to deal with halitosis:
Limit foods with strong flavours. Try to avoid eating so much garlic, onions, curry, and spicy foods, etc. They will linger in your body, and are hard to get rid of because the smell comes from your stomach, so chewing gum or eating breath mints will not fully mask it.
Practice good oral hygiene. You should brush your teeth a minimum of two times a day and floss after your last meal of the day. If you have braces or want to do more, feel free to brush and floss after each meal. Rinse with alcohol-free mouthwash.
Avoid alcohol-based mouthwash. We do not recommend using mouthwash that contains alcohol. Alcohol reduces the amount of saliva your mouth produces. Saliva is necessary to rinse away some of the bacteria in your mouth that causes bad breath. Therefore, alcohol-based mouthwash may make your breath smell fresh right after you use it, but in the long-run will cause it to worsen.
Brush your tongue. Your tongue is a bacteria magnet! Have you ever notice it has a layer of grey slime on it? At the end of your brushing session, remember to brush that off. Even better, invest in a tongue scraper so you don’t have to dirty your toothbrush.
Replace your toothbrush. Over time, bacteria will accumulate on the bristles on your brush. Furthermore, the bristles will begin to bend and lose their effectiveness at removing plaque and food debris from your teeth. Get a new toothbrush every three months to ensure it cleans optimally. If you just recovered from an illness, throw away the old brush as well.
Floss each tooth with a new section of floss. Don’t just use the same section of the floss string when flossing between teeth. Only the first pair of teeth will be cleaned with a sterile section of floss. After that, you are just spreading bacteria around. At the very least you’d be loosening the previous plaque bacteria, but reintroducing new ones as well.
Visit your dentist. No matter how thorough you are with your oral routine, you will miss some areas such as beneath your gum line. Your dentist will have special tools to clean this area, as well as other areas that you didn’t even think to clean. Visits to the dentist are worth the cost!
These are just some basic tips you should follow to keep your mouth plaque-free and your breath smelling fantastic. If the cause of the halitosis stems from another issue beyond the scope of this article, you may have to see a doctor to get it properly treated.
Once the underlying causes have been dealt with, you can expect bad breath to go away on its own. You can also ask your dentist for some advice on how to prevent and treat bad breath.
If you know someone who has bad breath who needs to read this article, be sure to send it to them or just tell them this advice yourself!