Man realizing he has bad morning breath.

7 Causes of Bad Breath - And How To Fix Them

July 30, 2020

There’s nothing quite as embarrassing as realizing that you have bad breath. Whether you had just a bit too much garlic for lunch or you ran out the door without brushing your teeth, bad breath is a cloud that hangs over you for the whole day.

But exactly what causes bad breath is more complicated than you might think. We all know that skipping one of your twice daily recommended brushing sessions or eating something pungent affects the way your breath smells. And even those of us who are diligent about our oral hygiene suffer from halitosis (that’s just a fancy way of saying “bad breath).

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What Causes Bad Breath

There are many reasons you may struggle with halitosis, but some of the most common bad breath causes include:

Gum Disease

Gum disease, or gingivitis, is an infection of the gums that causes inflammation, painful chewing, tooth loss, and — you guessed it — bad breath.


Cavities, or tooth decay, happen when plaque and bacteria build up on your teeth. Over time, they eat away at your teeth and gums, which can cause halitosis.

Coated Tongue

The tongue is the most common cause of bad breath. If your tongue looks white or yellow, you may have what’s called coated tongue — a buildup of bacteria and debris on your tongue.


Believe it or not, poor eating habits can give your breath a foul-smelling, slightly fruity odor. This is because your body starts to break down fat into glycerol when it’s malnourished.

Dry Mouth

Saliva contains antimicrobial properties that help eliminate the bacteria that causes bad breath. Without this natural production of saliva, your breath can smell stale and foul.


When you have an infection, like sinusitis, your tongue can start trapping bacteria on its surface and cause bad breath.

Poor Oral Hygiene

Brushing, flossing, and using an oral rinse are essential for removing plaque and bacteria from your teeth and gums. Even missing a single day of brushing can cause bacteria to accumulate in your mouth and lead to bad breath.

How to Get Rid of Bad Breath

If you’re embarrassed by bad breath, there are plenty of ways to remedy the situation. Here are a few simple ways to turn that bad breath into minty freshness:

  • Brush and floss twice a day;
  • Try a warm saltwater rinse to eliminate unwanted bacteria;
  • Use an antibacterial toothpaste that gets rid of bacteria and plaque;
  • Replace your toothbrush once every two months;
  • Visit your dentist for bi-annual checkups every six months;
  • Scrape your tongue with your toothbrush every morning and night;
  • Chew fresh mint, cilantro, or parsley;
  • Brush after every meal;
  • Avoid garlic and onions whenever possible;
  • Stop smoking cigarettes;
  • Drink plenty of water to avoid dry mouth;

Bad breath is sometimes a sign of an underlying condition. If you’ve tried every fix on this list and still struggle with halitosis, schedule a check-up with your dentist to find out the next steps you should take to get your bad breath under control.

Bad breath got you down? Use our Find a Dentist tool and you'll be smelling minty fresh in no time!

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