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what is the cause of bad breath
what is the cause of bad breath

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What Is The Cause of Bad Breath?

What Causes Bad Breath?

Bad breath, also called halitosis, is the common problem of having bad-smelling breath. Halitosis can be caused by many factors including smoking, poor oral hygiene, tooth decay, or gum disease.

Bad Breath (halitosis) happens quite frequently, but all too often there is little understanding of the causes and how they can be addressed. A better understanding of why halitosis occurs may help in its prevention or elimination at home.

So, what is the cause of bad breath? After some further research, these could be some of the following reasons for bad breath: smoking, oral hygiene, diet, digestive problems, sinus problems, medications and/or infections in your mouth. I have taken the time to find some solutions for you to curb your bad breath symptoms!

Keep reading to learn more!

Bad Breath Causes

Let’s take a closer look at some of the top causes of bad breath.


According to the dental experts at Magnolia Family Dental Care, saliva production decreases while you are smoking. Food smells stronger when you are smoking.

Smoking also causes your breath to smell worse as it ages. Tobacco products such as cigarettes, cigars, etc. are a big cause of bad breath; quitting can help eliminate this issue.

what is the cause of bad breathOral Hygiene

Food particles left in your mouth cause bad breath, so make sure you brush and floss every day. If you keep your teeth clean, food won’t stay lodged between them; plaque bacteria will not get a chance to decompose the food to release smelly sulfur compounds.

A big part of the reason that some people suffer from bad breath is their oral hygiene habits. This can be simply related to not brushing and flossing properly. But there are other reasons as well. Bad breath is often due to poor dental hygiene or gum disease.

Make sure to brush your teeth and tongue regularly and visit your hygienist for a check-up.


Garlic, onions, or curry are examples of strong-smelling foods that can cause bad breath even hours after consumption. If you eat foods high in certain oils it’s possible that they may stick to the back of your tongue and give off an unpleasant odor when they are digested.

Foods like garlic, onion, cheese and red meat are common culprits. One of the major causes of bad breath is related to your diet. If you have a specific food that causes you bad breath, it could be an indication of an underlying problem in your digestive system.

You should also see if rinsing or brushing your mouth with hydrogen peroxide would help get rid of the odor go away by itself within 15 minutes. Some people notice that their bad breath comes on only after drinking coffee, soda, or other drinks.

If this occurs it’s likely due to the lingering residue left behind; the next time you drink one of these types of beverages make sure to rinse your mouth out afterward. Some people notice that their bad breath comes on after drinking coffee and other beverages.

Make sure to drink plenty of water and avoid caffeinated and alcoholic drinks when you experience this.

Digestive Problems

Eating foods high in protein can make your breath smell worse because of the breakdown products of proteins by bacteria in your mouth during digestion.

Sinus Problems

Another reason for halitosis would be sinus problems, stress, hormonal changes, dry mouth, or a sore throat. You can also have bad breath if you suffer from diabetes, lung disease, or liver disease.


There are certain medications that can cause bad breath. If you are on any type of medication that causes dry mouth or reduces saliva then this would be a likely source of your problem.


If your bad breath is associated with a sore throat or fever then the problem could be related to an infection that needs treatment by a physician. It’s possible that your bad breath has been caused by a dental issue such as an abscessed tooth or decayed teeth. In this case, you should see your dentist as soon as possible. 

A poor-fitting denture can also be a cause of halitosis so if you have a set make sure to clean it thoroughly each day. If your bad breath is chronic, meaning lasting longer than just a few hours, then it’s time to see your doctor for an examination.

Some diseases that are suspected of causing bad breath include diabetes, kidney failure, liver disease, and sinus infections. In some cases, bad breath is caused by a build-up in the back of the throat that occurs after a person has been sick or couldn’t keep their mouth closed while they slept.

In these cases brushing your teeth, tongue, and tonsils with a toothbrush can help to reduce the odor. It could be that your bad breath has been caused by a dental issue such as an abscessed tooth or decayed teeth. In this case, you should see your dentist as soon as possible.

Solutions for Bad Breath

So, we know what causes it, but what are some ways to get rid of bad breath for good?

Dental Exams

When you feel like you might have bad breath it’s important to visit your dentist for an exam. They can give you some pointers on how to improve your oral hygiene regimen, but they may also be able to diagnose any chronic conditions that might cause this issue.

Visit your dentist on a regular basis for an exam and cleaning.  This will help them identify any issues with decay or gum disease which can lead to bad breath as well as other problems.

When you maintain your dental health through proper brushing, flossing, and rinsing it’s easier for your dentist to do their job.

These are just some of the potential causes of bad breath.  If you are still experiencing this problem then there are a few things that it could be, so make sure to see your doctor as soon as possible.

If you notice that your bad breath is getting worse over time without any apparent reason then it’s likely due to another health problem such as diabetes or gum disease which could lead to serious health problems if left untreated so make sure to visit your doctor for a check-up.

what is the cause of bad breathDiet Changes

Every person on the planet has hundreds of different types of bacteria living in their body. Bad breath is caused by an overgrowth of specific bacteria, so eliminating their food source can keep them away.

To help eliminate bad breath you should eat plenty of yogurts, cheese, and other foods with plenty of probiotics.

You can also take a probiotic supplement that contains lactobacillus casei which will help keep the bad bacteria in check. Eat healthy foods that will help you maintain a healthy body and breath.

Coffee or anything with garlic should be avoided because they both cause bad breath so try getting nutrients from fresh vegetables and fruits instead.

If you notice that your bad breath comes on after eating or drinking certain foods, such as coffee or certain vegetables, then it’s due to the lingering residue left behind and should go away after a few hours.

Make sure to brush your teeth, tongue, and tonsils with a toothbrush and/or rinse out.

Dry Mouth Changes

A dry mouth can be caused by certain medications, breathing through your mouth, or even some diseases so it’s important to pay attention to not only what you eat but what you drink as well. Make sure to drink plenty of water and avoid caffeinated and alcoholic beverages.

If your bad breath is caused by dry mouth then increasing the amount of fluids you drink will help, but if that doesn’t work then try using an artificial saliva product which will act as a temporary solution until you find out what’s causing this issue.

Brushing your teeth, tongue and tonsils with a toothbrush can help to reduce the odor if it’s due to dry mouth.

Daily Actions

You can also take some immediate steps at home to help reduce the odor until you can get a professional diagnosis.  Briefly rinsing your mouth with salt water several times a day will help to reduce the bacterial load in your mouth and bring some temporary relief until you can see a doctor.

Although bad breath can have many potential causes, there are several simple things you can do at home that may help in the meantime until you find out what the ultimate cause is.

There are also a number of products that you can try from the store if you believe that your bad breath is caused by something unrelated to oral hygiene or a chronic condition. Some examples include: mouthwashes, listerine, and special toothpaste.


Toothbrushes are available for purchase at local pharmacies and grocery stores, but if you have to choose just one, pick up a toothbrush that has extra soft bristles to ensure that your teeth aren’t being damaged during your brushing session. Use a fluoride toothpaste if you can to kill bacteria and the foul odors that it may cause in your mouth.


If you haven’t used mouthwash for years, it may be time to start up again but make sure to use one with a pleasant scent. If your breath smells minty, it will be easier for you to recover from the horrible experience of having bad breath.

what is the cause of bad breathFloss

Flossing at least once a day to remove all bacteria that gets stuck in between teeth especially if you have crooked or overlapping front teeth. While many people use dental floss, which can be found at pharmacies and grocery stores, you can also use special flossers which are designed with a handle so that it’s easier for people to floss.

There are other types of flosser available such as the Waterpik, which uses high-speed water to clean out your teeth and gums.

Tongue Cleaners

If you have a lot of bacteria stuck to your tongue, it’s likely that they are getting into the rest of your mouth and causing bad breath. Tongue cleaners can be found at pharmacies or grocery stores, but if you’d like to try something different, there is also a type called the scraper — which uses metal bristle to clean off your tongue or the brush, which uses a type of bristle to clean off portions of your tongue.

Breath Fresheners

Mints are always a good choice because they mask your bad breath with their fresh scent, but make sure you brush after chewing mints or anything with sugar in it to remove bacteria that may have gotten stuck on your teeth during the mint-biting process. Chewing gum that contains xylitol is also effective in killing bacteria because it doesn’t contain sugar, which allows bacteria to thrive inside your mouth.


It could be that you are dehydrated, so always try to keep plenty of fluids available throughout the day. If you think this may be the problem make sure to start with water when you feel thirsty and avoid caffeine and alcohol.

Make sure to drink plenty of fluids throughout the day as dehydration is often a cause, especially if you experience bad breath that comes on after waking up.

What if the Smell is Still Not Going Away?

If you are still experiencing bad breath it could be due to a build up in the back of the throat that occurs after a person has been sick or couldn’t keep their mouth closed while they slept.

There are few things more embarrassing than walking into a party and having people look away or move to the other side of the rooftop. Suddenly, you feel like everyone thinks that you have bad breath — which is not something that anyone can ignore.

It’s hard to forgive yourself if you never knew that your breath was bad in the first place, but there are some things that you can do to avoid this problem in the future.

I hope you either learned something new or will be able to share these insights with someone struggling with bad breath.

Written By

Hi, I'm Matt and I'm one of the writers here at Modern Dental Hygiene. For over 10 years I have been working directly with dentists. My goal is to help you understand the basics of dental hygiene. I enjoy writing about everything related to brushing, flossing and taking care of your teeth. In my spare time, I'm either spending time with my family, doing a DIY project or learning a new skill.

About Us

At Modern Dental Hygiene we make accessible to everyone free dental hygiene information.  The Modern Dental Hygiene team consists of enthusiast, hygienists and dentists. Our common goal is to bring quality content to help you to stay informed.

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