Potential Causes of Bad Breath

Bad breath, or halitosis, may be caused by a variety of reasons. While some causes, such as poor dental hygiene, are commonly associated with this condition, it may also be indicative of other health concerns.

Poor Dental Hygiene

Regular brushing and flossing removes food particles that may be stuck between teeth or within dental appliances such as braces or dentures. If those particles are not removed, they may rot and cause bacterial growth, which emits a foul odor. Buildup of plaque in the mouth can also cause bad breath if not regularly cleaned. Mouth and tooth conditions such as cavities, gum diseases or impacted teeth that can be prevented with consistent attention may exhibit in the form of bad breath in addition to swelling, bleeding, receding gums, or other symptoms. Tobacco use also causes bad breath through residual smoke particles and other chemicals in the mouth and lungs, which can also lead to oral cancer.

Dry Mouth

Also known as Xerostomia, dry mouth causes bad breath due to the mouth’s insufficient saliva production. Saliva is an important tool the body uses to wash away food and germs as well as dead cells from the tongue, gums and cheeks. If these cells are not removed, they may begin to decompose and produce bad breath odors. Dry mouth can be caused by salivary gland problems, connective tissues disorders and medications (antidepressants, diuretics, or aspirin). Morning breath is also a result of dry mouth as the body ceases almost all saliva production when you are asleep. Limit caffeine intake and cease the use of mouth washes with alcohol if you have dry mouth. Consult your dentist for additional info.


Certain foods, which include garlic, onion, alcohol, some fish, and spicy foods may cause bad breath. However, this can also happen as a result of remaining food particles in the mouth after eating. Simply brushing or flossing will not always be able to remove these odors, because the oils from these foods have been absorbed into the bloodstream and are being expelled by the lungs three or four hours later. However, this is temporary and not a cause for medical concern. People on a low-carb diet or diabetics may also experience what is known as ketone-breath. This is a fruity acetone-like smell that is caused by the burning of stored fat.

Infections and Illness

In addition to mouth diseases which result from poor dental hygiene, infections or diseases elsewhere in the body may also manifest themselves in the form of bad breath. Diabetes is characterized by a fruity smell, while kidney problems usually produce a fishy odor. Liver disease may cause bad breath as toxins from this organ are excreted by the lungs. Respiratory tract infections, chronic sinusitis, bronchitis, pneumonia, and acid reflux disease can also cause bad breath.

Temporary bad breath can be diminished by brushing, flossing, rinsing with mouthwash or chewing sugar-free gum after meals. If you are experiencing persistent bad breath, consult your dentist and doctor for proper treatment. Bad breath can indicate improper oral hygiene or other serious ailments that should not be ignored.

Categories: Preventive Dental care