Bad breath, also called halitosis, can sometimes accompany stress or anxiety. While many factors can cause bad breath, such as poor dental hygiene, gum disease, or respiratory illnesses, prolonged stress can aggravate unhealthy oral conditions to make your breath smell unpleasant.
Stress causes a variety of mental and physical health problems, such as reduced productivity, muscle tension, and unstable moods. In your mouth specifically, stress can reduce the production of saliva, creating a dry mouth. Without a healthy flow of saliva to wash away food particles and prevent bacteria from becoming lodged between your teeth, bad breath can quickly result from accumulating debris and the resulting sulfur production in the mouth. In addition to reducing saliva production, stress can also lead to higher levels of stomach acid. Chronic acid production can create acid reflux, which is the backward flow of stomach contents into the esophagus and lower throat. Both these effects of stress result in an unpleasant oral odor that is evident when you speak or exhale.
Bad breath that is caused by stress can be most effectively treated by attending to the underlying cause. Stress can often be managed through support from loved ones, regular exercise, and relaxation techniques. Prolonged or unmanageable stress should receive psychiatric treatment to determine the causes of your stress and to promote better health. Drinking plenty of water each day is also important, as dehydration further impairs saliva production and can worsen breath. Additionally, chewing gum and sucking on sugar-free lozenges can increase saliva flow and provide an outlet for nervous tension, thereby reducing the effects of stress-prompted bad breath. Make sure that you visit your dentist at least twice each year for regular cleanings and exams, as he or she can help you design and maintain an effective daily oral-hygiene routine.