Bad breath can cause embarrassment and self-consciousness, especially when you can't figure out the source of it. Known by the medical term halitosis, the condition can stem from minor and severe causes:

1. Bacteria in the mouth

Studies suggest the most common cause of bad breath is the accumulation of bacterial plaque in the mouth, including parts such as the teeth, the gums, and even the tongue.

While improper hygiene habits could be to blame, a common trigger is mouth dryness which provides the perfect environment for bacteria. This is also why most of us have bad breath in the morning since the lack of saliva production during sleep leaves the mouth dry.

2. Disease and medications

While this is relatively less common compared to the previous cause, it is still a possibility. A very foul odor that is "much worse than traditional bad breath," could be a sign of a lung problem, according to dentist Harold Katz, founder of the California Breath Clinics.

Bad breath can also be one of the possible signs of diabetes, a respiratory tract infection, chronic reflux, the formation of tonsils, etc. In some cases, the side effects of medications can also promote breath-related odor.

3. Alcohol, tobacco, and diet

Halitosis can be triggered by a smoking or drinking habit. While alcohol is known to cause dehydration, smoking can not only dry out your mouth but also increase the amount of odor-producing compounds in your body.

Additionally, experts have highlighted a low-carb diet or the habit of skipping meals as possible causes. According to health.com, foods like garlic, onion, spices, cabbage, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and radishes may also be culprits.

If you are still unsure about what could be causing your bad breath, seeing a medical professional would be recommended. You may be suffering from a more specific condition that would require diagnosis and treatment. And if you would like to make a few lifestyle changes to reduce the risk of bad breath, the following are good ones to start with:

1. Proper hygiene habits

Adopt the habit of brushing twice a day, using a tongue cleaner, flossing, and using an antibacterial mouthwash. This is particularly important for those who are at risk of bad breath (for instance, people who wear braces or dentures). Visit your dentist regularly (at least twice a year) to remember to replace your toothbrush after an illness.

2. Stay extra hydrated

Drink more water during the day and avoid drinks like soda which can wear away the enamel of your teeth. Fruits and vegetables like apples, carrots, celery, etc. can act as a natural mini-toothbrush and remove foods lodged between the teeth.

Another way to hydrate is by chewing gum.

"The stimulation of saliva, which happens with chewing gum, is responsible for diminishing the bad breath," said Dr. Cassiano Kuchenbecker Rösing, a professor from the University of Rio Grande do Sol in Brazil.

3. Home remedies

It wouldn't hurt to try out a home-based remedy or two. Chewing on fresh mint leaves or parsley might help, according to Jennifer Jablow, a cosmetic dentist based in NYC. She explains that parsley contains chlorophyll which prevents the creation of volatile sulfur compounds (VSCs) that promote bad breath.

A homemade mouthwash can also do the trick, fellow cosmetic dentist from NYC, Debra Glassman of Glassman Dental Care said. She recommended adding a tablespoon of baking soda into one cup of warm water with a few drops of peppermint oil.