Here Are The Causes Of Bad Breath (And The Easy Fixes!) (2022)

Bad breath is one of those nuisances that always seems to pop up at the most inconvenient times. And with most of us wearing masks right now, many people are picking up more on their bad breath issues. And the first step to getting rid of bad breath (a.k.a. halitosis)? Understanding the causes of bad breath.

"Halitosis affects millions of people in their everyday lives," says Scott Young, DDS (you're not alone!). "In fact, many say that having bad breath affects their social lives and overall self-confidence. If you find yourself constantly popping breath mints or chewing on mint-flavored gum, halitosis may be affecting you in the same way."

Thankfully, there are simple treatments and solutions to this annoying problem that will have you feeling fresh in no time. But first, you must figure out the root cause of your bad breath. Here are 12 common causes of bad breath—and smart solutions.

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Here Are The Causes Of Bad Breath (And The Easy Fixes!) (1)

1. You have poor oral hygiene.

"Poor oral hygiene leads to plaque buildup, and [it] can calcify over time, leading to calculus, or more commonly known as tartar," says Michaela Tozzi, DMD, a Nevada-based dentist. "This perpetuates the cycle of buildup and can lead to gingivitis and periodontal disease."

How to fix it: In general, "Brush, floss, and scrape your tongue in the morning, ideally after breakfast, coffee, et cetera," says Dr. Tozzi. You can also try timing yourself brushing your teeth to see how long you're really spending cleansing your mouth and tongue. Then, consider using an electric toothbrush, which often have timers to ensure that you're scrubbing for at least two minutes, and that you're reaching *all* surfaces of the teeth.

(Video) How to fix bad breath…permanently!

2. You have low saliva flow.

"Saliva acts as the mouth’s immune system," says Dr. Tozzi, by helping keep bacteria levels low. So, if you have low saliva, it can allow bacteria to flourish, which leads to bad breath (amongst other issues like decay, gingivitis, and periodontal disease), she explains.

Not producing enough saliva is often caused by prescription medications, over-the-counter allergy medicines, as well as chemo/radiation treatments, Dr. Tozzi says.

How to get rid of it: Drink plenty of water, and use a prescription toothpaste with added calcium or fluoride and/or a dry mouth gel frequently, Dr. Tozzi recommends. You can also chew sugar-free gum containing xylitol and pop dry mouth tablets (XyliMelts) to stimulate saliva flow. In more extreme cases, you may want to ask your dentist about prescription pilocarpine, which also helps increase saliva flow.

3. You eat an acidic diet.

"An acidic diet can cause acid reflux, which is a main cause of bad breath," notes Dr. Tozzi. Symptoms of acid reflux include heartburn, burping, nausea, and having a bitter taste in the mouth (among others).

How to get rid of it: If you deal with acid reflux and also notice bad breath, it's worth talking to your physician about prescription antacid medicine to minimize the regurgitation of acid into the mouth, says Dr. Tozzi. You may also want to keep a food log to identify acidic foods that may be causing or worsening reflux and make dietary tweaks accordingly with the help of a professional.

4. You aren't consistent with professional dental care.

You know, you know: You need to actually get to the dentist regularly to keep your mouth healthy. But also, doing so keeps bad breath at bay.

How to get rid of it: Get a professional cleaning every three to six months to help ensure that your gums and teeth are healthy, with no decay or signs of periodontal disease. Noted.

5. You eat pungent foods.

Can't stand your breath after a garlic-filled meal? Makes sense! Eating intense, smelly foods is the obvious cause of bad breath. "Some foods naturally have an odor, such as onions, garlic, coffee and spices," says Karyn Kahn, DDS, a dentist with the Cleveland Clinic.

How to get rid of it: Sounds obvious, but you should brush after meals to help do away with food particles that can cause probs (and stinky breath) in the hours to come. "Food entrapment can perpetuate the bad breath from these foods," says Dr. Kahn. "Brushing, flossing, and brushing your tongue may help reduce these naturally occurring odors after eating."

6. You eat a diet high in sugar.

When you go overboard on the sugary treats and foods, you're giving bacteria in your mouth the ability to thrive. "Bacteria feeds off of sugar, like from candy and soda," says Dr. Tozzi. "And when there’s a surplus of bacteria overgrowth, it can lead to bad breath."

How to get rid of it: Lay off the sweets and soda if you can. Or, "Switch to sugar-free candy and diet soda if you can’t kick either habit," says Dr. Tozzi. When you have sugar, it's also wise to swish with water or brush afterward "to minimize the concentration of sugar in the mouth and on the teeth or brush afterwards," she adds.

7. You're on the keto diet.

"Followers of the ketogenic diet can find themselves suffering from what's known as 'keto breath,' which is caused by the increased level of acetones in their body," says Young.

How to get rid of it: Drink plenty of water and try sugar-free gum or mints with xylitol.

8. You have cavities or an infection.

Cavities and dental infections are generally caused by bacteria overgrowth in your mouth, explains Sophya Morghem, DMD. And, "That bacteria secrets byproducts—a common culprit being sulfur—that cause malodor," Morghem says. Eek.

How to get rid of it: "See your dentist for regular checkups, at least twice a year," says Morghem. And, no, cavities don't go away on their own.

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9. You have dry mouth.

"Xerostomia, or dry mouth, causes a decrease in saliva production and keeping your mouth moist with saliva is vital in keeping bad breath at bay," says Young. "Saliva is necessary in washing away bacteria from your mouth."

How to get rid of it: Drinking lots of water and staying hydrated is essential when it comes to preventing dry mouth, says Young. "Over-the-counter products that contain xylitol can help with bouts of dry mouth," he adds. "For chronic dry mouth, your dentist or health care provider may prescribe an oral medication that can help stimulate the flow of your saliva."

10. You have old dental work.

Having dental work that's overdue for an update or poor-quality restorations can leave your breath smelling not so fresh. "Old fillings can wear out, letting harmful bacteria seep into the tooth, causing infection," says Young. "Similarly, old crowns can crack, leaving openings for bacteria to creep in and cause cavities and infection in the underlying tooth."

(Video) Top 5 CAUSES of BAD BREATH | How to Prevent it!

Low-quality restorations, such as porcelain-fused to metal crowns, can oxidize over time, breaking down from bacteria and acids, causing bad odors as well, Young adds.

How to get rid of it: "Make sure your dentist uses high-quality materials and state-of-the-art techniques in placing your restorations to ensure they don't fail leading to bad breath," says Young. And if you have, say, a crown or filling that needs to be replaced, don't wait on it.

11. You're not flossing.

Here Are The Causes Of Bad Breath (And The Easy Fixes!) (3)

Refillable Floss

"Without removing the plaque between the teeth and in the gum pocket, you are allowing bacteria to grow," says Morghem. "Just like the dirty dishes you forgot to clean before you went to bed, by the morning there will be a smell. This is the bacteria that is growing, releasing sulfur."

How to get rid of it: "Flossing before bed is a necessary part of your nighttime routine," says Dr. Morghem. Don't skip it!

12. You have an underlying medical issue.

"Chronic tonsillitis, nasal and sinus infections, as well as other disorder such as gastric reflux can result in bad breath," Kahn says. "Small stones in the tonsils, post-nasal drip, and chronic sinusitis are sources of bacterial that can result in bad breath."

How to get rid of it: If you can't seem to get of bad breath with any of the fixes above, it's time to talk to your doctor to rule out an underlying condition.

(Video) What Causes Bad Breath?

Permanent Fixes For Bad Breath

If you struggle with bad breath, taking the following steps can help you get it under control.

Here Are The Causes Of Bad Breath (And The Easy Fixes!) (4)

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  1. Use an electric toothbrush. Brushing your teeth is a given, but if you want to kick it up a notch, use an electric toothbrush, such as Sonicare by Philips. "Electric toothbrushes vibrate against your teeth and gums, dislodging any food or bacteria between the teeth that a traditional toothbrush might miss," says Young. (Psst, Burst also makes a pretty, effective option in rose gold.)
  2. Minimize sugar intake. Foods high in sugar provide food for bacteria, reminds Tozzi.
  3. Get yourself a tongue scraper. "Think of the tongue as a carpet. It has nooks and crannies that can accumulate debris, bacteria—and it needs to be cleaned regularly to prevent bad breath," explains Dr. Tozzi.
  4. Use mouthwash or an oral rinse. "Mouthwash is helpful, but it won’t replace the need for brushing, flossing, and tongue scraping. It’s a nice finishing touch," says Dr. Tozzi. Avoid alcohol-based rinses, since they can dehydrate the mouth and irritate tissues. CloSYS and Rinse by Klen are effective options, says Young.
  5. Drink plenty of water. This helps to neutralize the pH of your saliva, keeping the mouth’s ecosystem happy and preventing bacteria growth, says Dr. Tozzi.
  6. Floss daily. This is essential. "Traditional flossing is great, but a water flosser, such as the Zerhunt Cordless Water Flosser, is a great tool to keep in the shower that can effectively clean in between tight spaces in your teeth by using pressurized water," says Young.

The bottom line: There are many reasons for bad breath, most of which have simple lifestyle solves. But always talk to your dentist or doctor if you can't get to the bottom of your halitosis issue.

Emily Shiffer

(Video) Bad Breath | What Causes Bad Breath & How to Get Rid of Bad Breath

Emily Shiffer is a former digital web producer for Men’s Health and Prevention, and is currently a freelancer writer specializing in health, weight loss, and fitness. She is currently based in Pennsylvania and loves all things antiques, cilantro, and American history.


What are the causes of bad breath? ›

  • Food. The breakdown of food particles in and around your teeth can increase bacteria and cause a foul odor. ...
  • Tobacco products. Smoking causes its own unpleasant mouth odor. ...
  • Poor dental hygiene. ...
  • Dry mouth. ...
  • Medications. ...
  • Infections in your mouth. ...
  • Other mouth, nose and throat conditions. ...
  • Other causes.
Mar 10, 2018

What is the easiest way to fix bad breath? ›

Halitosis can be prevented or decreased if you:
  1. Brush and floss your teeth at least twice a day.
  2. Brush your tongue, cheeks, and the roof of your mouth. ...
  3. If you have dentures, take them out at night and clean them completely before putting them back in your mouth. ...
  4. If you smoke, quit.

What causes bad breath and remedy? ›

Fast facts on bad breath

The most common cause of halitosis is bad oral hygiene. If particles of food are left in the mouth, their breakdown by bacteria produces sulfur compounds. Keeping the mouth hydrated can reduce mouth odor. The best treatment for bad breath is regular brushing, flossing, and hydration.

What is the name of the bacteria that causes bad breath? ›

The oral microbes most likely to cause the oral malodour are Gram negative bacteria and include Prevotella (Bacteroides) melaninogenica, Treponema denticola, Porphyromonas gingivalis, Porphyromonas endodontalis, Prevotella intermedia, Bacteroides loescheii, Enterobacteriaceae, Tannerella forsythensis (Bacteroides ...

Do lemons help with bad breath? ›

Lemon juice is thought to help reduce smelly breath because of its strong antibacterial properties that help neutralize odors. Either suck on a lemon wedge or mix a teaspoon of fresh lemon juice into a glass of water for a quick fix after an odorous meal.

How can I clean my tongue? ›

There are two tools you can use to clean your tongue: your toothbrush or a tongue scraper, which you can find for cheap in the dental section of most drugstores. It's most effective to clean your tongue after brushing but before rinsing so that there is still some toothpaste residue in your mouth.

What is the fastest natural cure for bad breath? ›

10 quick bad breath remedies to try at home
  1. Drink water. ...
  2. Rinse with warm salt water. ...
  3. Chew on cloves. ...
  4. Apple cider vinegar. ...
  5. Eat fruits and veggies. ...
  6. Make your own alcohol-free mouthwash. ...
  7. Tea tree oil. ...
  8. Floss your teeth.
Jan 26, 2022

Can bad breath be cured? ›

Most of the time, bad breath can be cured and prevented with proper oral hygiene. It is rarely life-threatening, and the prognosis is good. However, bad breath may be a complication of a medical disorder that needs to be treated.

How does apple cider vinegar help bad breath? ›

Apple cider vinegar has many health benefits and fighting bad breath is one of them. Aside from being an antibacterial, it also has some pH-balancing properties. To use it as a home remedy, mix a tablespoon of raw apple cider vinegar into a glass of water. You can gargle vinegar for bad breath or drink it before meals.

What can I drink for bad breath? ›

Black tea is one of the best drinks for controlling bad breath. It's rich in polyphenols, which work double time to keep your breath smelling great. First, they inhibit the growth of foul-smelling bacteria, and second, they reduce the rate at which the bacteria in your mouth produce unpleasant odors.

How can I stop bad breath in the morning? ›

  1. CLEAN YOUR TONGUE. If you already brush twice a day, use mouthwash and floss at least once a day, be sure to clean your tongue, too. ...
  2. STAY HYDRATED. Drink plenty of water. ...

What antibiotics treat bad breath? ›

Your dentist may suggest a low dose of an antibiotic called doxycycline (brand name Vibramycin). If you have really bad breath that doesn't improve with treatment, your dentist may prescribe an antibiotic called metronidazole (Flagyl).

Why do I have bad breath everyday? ›

Mouth infections can cause bad breath. However, if your dentist has ruled out other causes and you brush and floss every day, your bad breath could be the result of another problem, such as a sinus condition, gastric reflux, diabetes, liver or kidney disease. In this case, see your healthcare provider.

Will probiotics help with bad breath? ›

Promotes Fresh Breath

Probiotics, on the other hand, can restore the balance and improve your oral health overall. A research study suggests that these probiotics can reduce bad breath by eliminating the harmful bacteria that cause bad breath.

Can salt water cure bad breath? ›

Saltwater can fight off bad breath by removing any food debris in the mouth and removing the unpleasant smell.

Can baking soda cure bad breath? ›

Studies have shown that baking soda, also known as sodium bicarbonate, can effectively kill bacteria in the mouth. Research indicates that toothpastes containing high concentrations of baking soda effectively reduce bad breath.

What tea is good for bad breath? ›

Black and green tea are beneficial in prevent bad breath. Black tea aids in controlling plaque and bacteria that can cause bad breath. Green tea contains antibacterial properties that fight off the natural occurring germs in your mouth, keeping your breath fresh.

What does a dirty tongue look like? ›

Your tongue may look dark yellow, brown, or black. Also, the papillae may multiply, giving off the “hairy” appearance. This tongue condition may develop from: poor oral hygiene.

Why is my tongue so dirty? ›

Bacteria, fungi, dirt, food, and dead cells can all get trapped between the enlarged papillae. This collected debris is what turns your tongue white. All of these conditions can cause white tongue: poor brushing and flossing.

Why is my tongue so white? ›

Why is my tongue white? White tongue is usually caused when bacteria, debris (like food and sugar) and dead cells get trapped between the papillae on the surface of your tongue. These string-like papillae then grow large and swell up, sometimes becoming inflamed. This creates the white patch you see on your tongue.

Does hydrogen peroxide help bad breath? ›

Bad breath may be temporarily reduced by using a hydrogen peroxide rinse. Hydrogen peroxide at a concentration of 1.5% can be taken as an oral antiseptic. Hydrogen peroxide is a powerful oxidizer which kills most bacteria, including useful aerobic bacteria.

Is bad breath permanent? ›

How Poor Dental Hygiene Causes Bad Breath. Masking bad breath provides short-term relief, but it isn't a permanent cure. The first step in truly ridding yourself of bad breath is to understand what's causing your halitosis. Poor dental hygiene is the most common cause of bad breath.

Does everyones breath smell? ›

Approximately 30% of the population complains of some sort of bad breath. Halitosis (Latin for "bad breath") often occurs after a garlicky meal or in the morning after waking. Other causes of temporary halitosis include some beverages (including alcoholic drinks or coffee) and tobacco smoking.

Can cinnamon help with bad breath? ›

Chewing on cinnamon sticks is one of the oldest home remedies for bad breath. Cinnamon's spice is nice for bad breath because it contains an essential oil that kills the bacteria in your mouth, which is what causes bad breath. Plus, cinnamon leaves a lovely scent that covers up bad breath immediately.

Do bananas give you bad breath? ›

Bananas are unlike other foods – say onions, garlic, cheese, and coffee – in that they can actually improve your breath instead of harm it. So if you are a fan of bananas, or need something to get you moving and energized again while also improving your breath and keeping your mouth healthy, chomp on one!

Does drinking water help bad breath? ›

The research published in the International Journal of Dental Hygiene has shown that drinking or rinsing the mouth with a glass of water helped remove up to 60 per cent of the substances which contribute to bad breath1.

Does cucumber remove bad breath? ›


Vegetables like cucumbers that are high in water volume are great for busting bad breath.

Can you smell your own breath? ›

Since you smell your own breath all the time and it doesn't pose a danger to you, you become accustomed to its scent and cease to smell it. The inability to smell your own breath may also be due to anatomy. The mouth and nose communicate with each other through an opening in the back of the mouth.

Why do I still have bad breath after brushing my teeth? ›

The tongue can collect a lot of bacteria and is constantly brushing up against your teeth. If you skip brushing it, you're leaving a large number of bacteria in the mouth which can mean bad breath, even after brushing.

How do I know if my breath smells bad? ›

Need to check how your breath smells quickly? Try the sniff test—there are a couple of ways to do it. If you lick your wrist, let it dry for a moment, then take a whiff, you should be able to get an idea if your breath has an odor too. Another method is to floss toward the back of your mouth, then smell the floss.

Can bad breath come from your stomach? ›

Your bad breath may be from some undigested food coming back up, or it could be that irritation from stomach acid is giving you postnasal drip. Ask your doctor for help if you get heartburn often.

What causes bad breath even after brushing? ›

Bacteria, gum disease, cavities, dry mouth, poorly fitting dental devices, and infections are among the leading causes of bad breath. Sometimes problems in the intestinal tract, liver, and kidneys are at the root of the problem.

How do you know if your bad breath is from your stomach? ›

GERD symptoms as a cause of bad breath

Reflux (stomach acid or contents building up or splashing up into the esophagus or even the mouth) Belching or burping. Pain or discomfort when swallowing. Waterbrash (a sudden excess of saliva)

What different breath smells mean? ›

Bad breath is usually related to poor dental hygiene. Not brushing and flossing regularly causes sulfur compounds to be released by bacteria in the mouth. Some disorders will produce distinct breath odors. Some examples are: A fruity odor to the breath is a sign of ketoacidosis, which may occur in diabetes.

Which foods make your breath smell good? ›

Foods that fight halitosis
  • Raw fruits and veggies. Crunchy fresh fruits and veggies, including apples, pears, carrots and celery, help produce saliva, which cleans out the odor-producing bacteria in your mouth. ...
  • Probiotic yogurt. ...
  • Parsley and basil. ...
  • Cherries. ...
  • Green tea. ...
  • Sugarless gum. ...
  • Melons and citrus. ...
  • Chlorophyll.
Feb 13, 2019


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