The way your breath smells means more than you think

When we fear our breath might smell bad, most of us just reach for a mint or some gum. But if bad breath is something you're noticing regularly, it's time to start paying attention. The smell emanating from your mouth can be an important indicator of overall bodily health.

Most cases of halitosis (the Latin term for bad breath) are caused by problems with oral hygiene. Bacteria can linger on the tongue and teeth, which underscores the importance of brushing twice a day and flossing regularly, according to Harvard Health Publishing. But gum disease and dry mouth can also produce the odors that cause bad breath. That's why it's important to keep up with regular dental care, and visit the dentist any time you suspect a problem.

Sometimes halitosis is an indicator of a more serious health problem. Some cancers, metabolic disorders, and chronic reflux all produce the condition, according to the Mayo Clinic — so can cases of tonsillitis, bronchitis, or sinusitis. If a dentist has ruled out oral hygiene as the source of the problem, then visit a doctor to have other health conditions investigated.

Your bad breath may be caused by what you eat

Diet plays an important role in many of our bodily functions and it's also a big factor in the smell that comes from our mouth. Lawrence Fund, DDS, told Well+Good, "There has been some evidence that a high protein and fat diet can cause your body to enter the ketosis state, and these ketones from the gut that get released can be foul-smelling." On the other hand, he noted that a diet high in carbs and processed sugar can lead to cavities, which create their own breath issues. Any diet that is off-balance can create problems with the gut's microbiome and cause bad breath, so maintaining a good mix of healthy protein, carbs, healthy fats are important.

Unfortunately for some people, bad breath is written into their genetic code. Researchers from the University of California, Davis, released a study in the Journal of Nature Genetics that showed that a particular gene can result in a sulfuric smell on the breath.

For most people, a quick teeth brushing or a mint can solve the problem. But if you notice bad breath sticking around, it's advisable to visit a dentist or doctor and get to the root of the problem.