What Causes My Bad Breath?

Controlling Bad Breath

If you’re serious about learning what’s causing your bad breath, consider scheduling an appointment with your dental professional. Given your full medical and dental history along with an oral examination, your dentist should be able to identify the cause of your bad breath, also known as halitosis.   In addition, your dentist will examine your teeth, gums, oral tissues and salivary glands, as well as reviewing your medical history for medical conditions that can cause bad breath and for medications that can cause dry mouth.   Your dentist may also ask about your diet, personal habits such as smoking, and chewing tobacco, and any other symptoms that you may be having.

The causes of bad breath are numerous and include certain foods, alcohol or cigarettes, poor oral hygiene, periodontal disease, diabetes, dry mouth, sinus or throat infections, respiratory tract infections, lung infections or abscesses, kidney/liver failure, gastrointestinal issues and severe dieting.

A large majority of people in the United States are suffering from dry mouth due to medication they may be taking, salivary gland dysfunction and those who may be going through radiation and chemotherapy treatment for cancer therapy.  You should consult your physician or oncologist for their professional recommendations for prescriptions or over the counter products that may alleviate dry mouth symptoms.

Some types of bad breath, such as “morning mouth” are considered to be normal, and usually are not health concerns.  Morning mouth is caused when saliva that washes away decaying food and odors during the daytime diminishes while you sleep at night.


A person may not always know that he or she has bad breath.  A dentist or physician may notice the patient’s bad breath while the patient is discussing his or her medical history or symptoms.  Symptoms associated with bad breath are swollen, red gums that bleed easily, especially after brushing or flossing; teeth that are coated with a film or plaque; sore throat, and swollen lymph nodes in the neck.  You may also have a fever, stuffy nose, or nasal discharge.  Other symptoms may also be difficulty swallowing dry foods, difficulty speaking for a prolonged period because of mouth dryness or a burning sensation in the mouth.  Depending on the smell of the patient’s breath, the dentist or physician may suspect the cause of the problem.  For example, “fruity” breath may be a sign of uncontrolled diabetes, while others scents may indicate various other illnesses such as kidney disease or kidney failure.

Treatment of Bad Breath

It is important to conduct thorough oral hygiene at home twice daily utilizing tooth brushing with a fluoride antibacterial toothpaste and flossing to remove food debris and plaque on teeth, bridgework and implants, and brushing the tongue to remove odor-causing bacteria. Studies have shown that tongue and tooth brushing in combination with dental flossing significantly decreased bleeding of the gum tissue over a two week period of time as well as reduced bad breath.


Bad breath caused by dental problems can be prevented easily. Daily maintenance calls for brushing your teeth, tongue and gums after meals, flossing, and rinsing with mouthwashes approved by the American Dental Association (ADA). Regular visits to the dentist (at least twice a year) should be made for dental examinations and for professional teeth and gum cleaning.

Bad breath also can be combated by drinking plenty of water every day to encourage saliva production. Sugar-free gum sugarless mints and/or lozenges help keep breath fresh and prevent plaque from forming.

Consult your dentist or dental hygienist when choosing oral hygiene aids to help you eliminate plaque and odor causing bacteria and review the techniques that should be utilized at home. Also, ask your dental professional what oral hygiene care products they would consider you use to help eliminate bad breath, such as antibacterial toothpaste, antiseptic mouth rinse, and tongue brushes or scrapers.

The key to a clean, fresh mouth is optimal oral hygiene conducted at home on a regular basis and professional recommendations discussed with you by your dental professional.

Call your dentist or orthodontist today to schedule a consultation for your specific dental needs.