Bad breath, clinically known as halitosis, is caused by waste products from the bacteria in your mouth, decaying food particles, other debris and poor oral hygiene. The decay and debris produce a sulfur compound responsible for the unpleasant odor.
Bad breath also may occur in people who have medical infections, diabetes, kidney failure or liver issues. Dry mouth (xerostomia) and tobacco also contribute to this problem. Additionally, stress, dieting, snoring, age and hormonal changes can all have an effect on your breath. An odor that comes from the back of your tongue may also indicate postnasal drip.
To eliminate bad breath, you need to stop it at the source.
Gum infections can be one of the most obvious causes of bad breath. To help keep your gums healthy, brush thoroughly with a soft-bristle brush and get into the habit of regular flossing. Your dentist can advise you of the appropriate treatment if you have serious gum issues.
Food particles and other debris can get stuck between your teeth and cause bad breath. Brushing and flossing are best for removing odor-causing debris, but even just swishing water around your mouth can help.
After you’ve given your teeth and gums a thorough cleaning, don’t forget about your tongue. Removing bacteria from the back of your tongue can go a long way in fighting bad breath. If you don’t have a tongue scraper, try brushing very gently with a soft-bristle brush. Just don’t brush your tongue too hard or too deep, as this may cause a gagging reaction!
Skipping meals can cause foul breath because it reduces the production of saliva that flushes away bacteria from your teeth, tongue and gums. Stress can also lead to a dry mouth and increased production of stomach acid, compounding the problem. Chewing gum and lozenges can help step up saliva flow, as can between-meal snacks such as fresh fruits and vegetables.
Using too much alcohol-based mouthwash can actually worsen a bad breath problem by irritating your oral tissue. For a minty fresh feeling with less irritation, try a rinse made of water and a few drops of peppermint oil.
Last updated February 11, 2022
The oral health information on this website is intended for educational purposes only. Always consult a licensed dentist or other qualified health care professional for any questions concerning your oral health.