bad breath causes

Common Causes and Cures for Bad Breath

October 22, 2019

There are many things you want to be remembered for – a stunning smile, infectious laugh, or generous spirit. No one wants to be known for their bad breath. But before you resign yourself and start answering to the nickname “funky-breath-Fred”, rest assured: once you figure out the cause, many bad breath cures are straightforward.

Also rest assured that you aren’t alone. Up to 80 million people suffer from halitosis (chronic bad breath.) Many of these people brush, floss and gargle with mouthwash like champs but still struggle. The cause of halitosis isn’t always obvious, and the answer isn’t always in your mouth. Sometimes it takes a little detective work, but once you figure out the underlying problem behind your bad breath, a cure is usually right around the corner.

Why Poor Dental Hygiene Causes Bad Breath


Masking your bad breath smell with gum or mints provides short-term relief, but it isn’t a cure. You can’t truly rid yourself of stinky breath until you understand the specific cause of your halitosis. Like any good detective, start with the obvious: your mouth.

It probably comes as no surprise that poor dental hygiene is the most common cause of bad breath. Around 85% of bad breath causes come from inside the mouth, and it often begins with poor hygiene. Skipping your brush-and-floss routine leaves behind microscopic bacteria whose single goal in life is to feast on the particles of food left behind on your teeth. As all creatures must, these bacteria excrete a foul-smelling waste after eating. Leave that on your teeth and the result isn’t pretty.

Denture wearers suffer a similar fate. Just like your natural teeth, bacteria and food particles cling to dentures. Not removing dentures at night or cleaning them properly is another cause of halitosis. Likewise, when left long enough, food trapped between dentures or under dental implants begins rotting and causes its own form of smelly halitosis. Yuck!


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Cavity and Infection as a Halitosis Cause


In some cases, bad breath is a sign of cavity or other infection. If you have an untreated cavity, the bacteria present in tooth decay emits a foul smell. Likewise, an infection in your mouth from tooth decay or dental work that hasn’t healed properly also causes bad breath. So, too, do infected tonsils and strep throat.

Low-carb diets

They don’t call it “keto breath” for nothing. When you drastically reduce your carbohydrate intake, as is prescribed in the keto diet, your body makes its energy by breaking down fats instead of carbs. As your body breaks down fat, these fatty acids turn into acetone and cause bad breath often described as fruity or sweet-smelling.

High-protein diets

Too much protein also causes halitosis. When you consume too much protein, your body can’t break it down efficiently. This inefficiency produces amino acids and, when combined with the bacteria in your mouth, causes bad breath.

Dehydration and Dry Mouth


Many people don’t realize that dry mouth and dehydration are also bad breath causes. In both cases, saliva flow slows way down. And when saliva flow reduces, you essentially lose your offensive line in the fight against halitosis.

Saliva not only helps wash away food particles, but it also contains proteins and minerals that neutralize acids and limit bacterial growth. And as you know by now, bacteria and leftover food particles cause bad breath like no other.

Less Common Causes of Bad Breath


Most of the bad breath causes I just mentioned are pretty straightforward. But sometimes, halitosis has a more hidden, but no-less serious cause. Other causes of bad breath include:

  • Acid reflux
  • Sinus infection or nasal polyps 
  • Throat or mouth cancer 
  • Diabetes 
  • Digestive system and bowel disorders 
  • Liver disease 
  • Lung infection or lung cancer 

If your persistent bad breath isn’t cured by a dental fix or changes to your diet, your dentist might refer you to a doctor or an otolaryngologist (ear, nose and throat specialist.)

Cures for Halitosis

Even though millions of other people suffer right along with you, halitosis is still embarrassing. Because of the stigma associated with it, chronic bad breath has ramifications on your personal and professional life. So, it’s safe to say you want a cure for your halitosis, and you want it now.

Dental hygiene cures for bad breath

  • Brush for at least two minutes, two times a day using a soft toothbrush 
  • Floss daily 
  • Scrape or brush your tongue every time you brush 
  • Rinse with mouthwash 
  • Remove dentures and dental devices and clean them regularly 
  • Visit your dentist for regular cleanings 

Lifestyle cures for bad breath

  • Drink plenty of water 
  • Eat a diet low in fat and rich in fruits and vegetables 
  • If you have dry mouth, chew sugar-free gum or snack on sugar-free mints 
  • Avoid smoking

These are the simplest cures for bad breath. However, if you’ve tried everything above and nothing helps, visit your doctor for a thorough checkup. As always, if you have any questions or concerns about your oral health, talk to your dentist. He or she is aware of the latest studies and products to help you reach your healthiest smile.


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