Causes of Bad Breath

The medical term for bad breath is called halitosis or fetor oris. This medical condition can be embarrassing to a point of causing low self-esteem and this can affect our lives and interpersonal relationships. It can be tough to those around us as they might be afraid to tell us and hurt our feelings. This is one of the reasons why you find stores stocking a variety of chewing gums, mouthwashes and other products meant to fight mouth odor which only ends up solving the problem temporarily since they don’t address the root cause.

Whether chronic or acute, halitosis is an indicator that there could be a dental or medical issue that needs to be addressed.

A quick way to find out if your breath stinks, lick your wrist, leave it for a while to dry then take a whiff. If it smells unpleasant, it’s highly likely that your breath does too.

Some of the symptoms of halitosis are;

  • Dry mouth
  • A sour or metallic taste in the mouth
  • A white coating at the back of the tongue
  • Thick saliva
  • Fever and sore throat

Halitosis isn’t infectious but is mostly as a result of other underlying medical conditions. Some of the pathological causes of bad breath are;

01. Dry mouth:

The medical term for dry mouth is Xerostomia. Dry mouth is as a result of reduced saliva production which causes higher than normal bacteria build up in your mouth.  Saliva helps in cleaning the mouth and removing food particles that cause bad odor. The foul “morning breath” experienced in the morning is normally caused by reduced saliva production when we are asleep or sleeping with your mouth open. Dry mouth can also be caused by long periods of speaking, smoking or taking alcohol and side effects of certain medications. In healthy people, most odors caused by food are temporary and goes away after several minutes while in people who suffer from chronic dry mouth, the odor may take time.

02. Poor Oral Hygiene

Poor oral hygiene is the major cause of bad mouth odor. Always ensure that you brush and floss your teeth daily. If you use dentures or retainers, ensure that they fit properly and cleaned regularly. Failure to do so, food particles left in your mouth causes bacterial and plaque buildup on your teeth and gums which in turn causes bad breath. Accumulation of plaque leads to gingivitis and periodontal diseases. Don’t forget to brush your tongue too as the rough surface can harbor bacteria. Change your toothbrush at least once in three months.

03. Medical conditions and illnesses

Some diseases and illnesses can cause bad breath. People who suffer from respiratory tract infections such as pneumonia, bronchitis, tonsillitis and sinuses, gastrointestinal conditions such as gastroesophageal reflux (GERD), kidney disease, lung disease, high blood pressure and certain types of cancer experience chronic bad breath due to the chemicals the drugs release and reduced saliva production.

04. Smoking

Tobacco products are known to cause bad breath. Besides staining the teeth and reducing the sense of taste, tobacco exposes smokers to a higher risk of developing gingivitis and periodontal diseases which cause bad breath.

05. Certain foods and drinks

Food remains in your mouth after meals can cause bad breath if you don’t brush your teeth due to bacterial build up. Spicy foods such as onions, garlic and ginger can affect your breath as they contain sulfur compounds which are carried to your lungs through the blood. Strong drinks such as alcohol and coffee are notorious for causing bad odor.

06. Foreign objects

If a foreign body is lodged in the nasal cavity, it can cause bad breath. This normally happens in children.

Simple home remedies to curb bad breath

01. Take plenty of water and gurgle some around your mouth after meals to wash away food particles.

02. Ensure that you brush and floss at your teeth preferably twice a day. Use alcohol-free mouthwash thereafter to eliminate bacteria causing bad breath.

03. Brush and scrape the back of your tongue to remove any fungi that can cause odor

04. Chew sugar-free gum or lozenges to stimulate the production of saliva.

05. If you wear dentures, remove them at night and clean them thoroughly to get rid of bacterial buildup from food and drink.

06. Replace your toothbrush after every three months.

07. Ensure that your diet contains Vitamins C, D and E which are effective in eliminating excess toxins from your body naturally.

08. Avoid foods that are normally linked to bad breath such as garlic, onions and other spicy foods. Reduce your coffee and alcohol intake.


The best way to identify the cause of chronic halitosis is to make a visit to a doctor or a certified dentist for professional diagnosis.

Your doctor has to first determine if your problem is of oral origin or not. If it is not, they might recommend an endoscopy to determine the cause. However, if it is oral, they will refer you to a dentist.

A saliva substitute can be prescribed to keep your mouth moist if you are experiencing mouth dryness. For acute halitosis, toothpaste and mouthwashes containing oxygenating agents such chlorine dioxide help to neutralize sulfur compounds in the mouth that cause bad odor.


Make a point of visiting your dentist at least twice a year for oral exam. This will enable early detection and treatment of gingivitis and periodontal diseases or any other problem that may cause halitosis.

Mom Blog

All information published on this website about health, diagnosis process, and remedies are for informational purposes only. This website is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease and is not meant to be a substitute or replacement for any medical treatment. Please visit healthcare professionals for your specific health concerns.

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