Bad Breath | Causes, Symptoms, Treatment and Prevention

Do you brush your teeth with regularity, but still have bad breath?

Ever had an embarrassing moment where you thought your breath smelled and took a sniff of it before letting the person know?

If so, then this article is for you. Read on to learn more about what causes bad breath as well as how to treat and prevent its occurrence in the future.

What is bad breath?

Bad breath, also known as halitosis, is an oral disease characterized by foul-smelling breath. According to the American Dental Association, at least half of all individuals have experienced halitosis at some point in their lives. The odor may be caused by a variety of factors, including dietary and environmental issues.

There are many different signs and symptoms associated with bad breath which may vary depending on the cause of the issue. For example, bad breath might smell like rotting flesh if it is caused by a dental abscess. In contrast, if bad breath is caused by dry mouth, it might have a more sour smell.

A health care professional should always be consulted if there are any concerns about halitosis or other oral diseases like gingivitis or periodontal disease. It can usually be treated with antibiotics or dental procedures, but the prognosis for people with halitosis depends on the severity of the infection and the individual’s health history.

What are the causes of bad breath (halitosis)?

There are many different causes of bad breath, but the most common one is bacteria on the tongue and throat. This bacteria causes an imbalance of proteins which leads to that unpleasant smell. Other causes of bad breath include poor dental hygiene, smoking, xerostomia, tooth decay, acid and bile reflux, and certain foods such as onions, garlic, or cauliflower. However, these effects are only short-lived and don’t usually last long.

Bad breath can also be caused by other factors such as kidney failure, various carcinomas, metabolic dysfunctions and biochemical disorders. But thankfully, this type of halitosis is not very common. Additionally, Because of the molecules they create, certain metabolic illnesses might induce a distinctive breath odor.

If you have bad breath, it could be a warning sign of a more serious oral condition or health conditions in another region of your body, such as diabetes, gastroesophageal reflux disease (regurgitation of stomach acids), liver or kidney disease.

Sinus Infection

When you have a sinus infection, the mucous membranes in your nose and throat become inflamed. This can cause a foul breath odor because the bacteria that live in your mouth feed on the proteins in this mucous. The bacteria produce sulfur compounds as a by-product, which give your breath a foul smell. Other causes of bad breath include:

Gum disease

Gum disease is a bacterial infection that affects the gums and bone supporting the teeth. Periodontitis is a serious oral health condition that can cause a variety of problems, including bad breath and a bad taste in the mouth. It is one of the most common causes of a foul breath odor.

If left untreated, Periodontitis can cause damage to the gums, jawbone and tooth loss.

Poor oral hygiene

It is most often caused by poor oral hygiene habits. When bacteria on the tongue and in the gums decompose, they release sulfur compounds that smell bad. Brushing and flossing regularly will help to remove these bacteria and reduce bad breath.

Bacteria in the mouth

When you eat, the bacteria in your mouth feast on the food particles left on your teeth and tongue. The bacteria produce a bad-smelling gas called volatile sulfur compounds (VSCs). Some of these VSCs are so smelly that they can be detected on your breath. This can lead to an abscess (a pocket of pus) and bad breath.

Poor diet

When you eat certain foods that are high in sulfur-containing compounds, they can cause bad breath. These foods include garlic, onions, and asparagus. Other foods that can contribute to bad breath include dairy products, meat, and fish.

Mouthwash and dentures

Just like it is important to clean your natural teeth, it is just as important to clean dentures. Bits of food can become caught around the edges of dentures and clasps, and food can rot if you do not clean them thoroughly. Make sure to brush them like your natural teeth – all surfaces of dentures, including the surface that fits against gums. When choosing a mouthwash, search for one that is antiseptic (kills the bacteria that cause foul breath) and plaque-reducing, as well as one that bears the American Dental Association mark (ADA).

Dry mouth (Xerostomia)

Xerostomia is a condition characterized by a decrease in the amount of saliva produced by the salivary glands.Saliva helps to cleanse the mouth and remove bacteria. When there is not enough saliva to keep the mouth moist, bacteria can build up and cause bad breath.

Dry mouth may be caused by certain medications, radiation therapy to the head and neck, diabetes, Sjögren’s syndrome, dental problems, or other medical conditions. It also may occur as a side effect of some treatments for cancer.

If a chronic dry mouth is a problem for you, your dentist may be able to recommend an oral saliva product or suggest other ways of dealing with it. Additionally, you can help reduce dry mouth and its effects on bad breath by drinking plenty of fluids, chewing sugar-free gum or candy, and using a saliva substitute oral rinse.

Food Particles in the Mouth

These particles can be food, bacteria, or other debris. When these trapped food particles decompose, they release a foul odor.

In rare cases, bad breath may be a sign of a serious medical condition. If you have persistent bad breath that doesn’t go away after brushing your teeth and using mouthwash, see your dentist or doctor.


Unpleasant mouth odor is a common symptom of smokers. Smoking also deposits chemical molecules in your mouth, which can combine with saliva and generate foul mouth odor.

What are the symptoms of bad breath?

Bad breath can be characterized by a variety of signs and symptoms, which can vary depending on the underlying cause. Some common symptoms include a bad taste in the mouth, a metallic taste, dry mouth, bad breath that worsens upon waking up in the morning, and bad breath that persists despite brushing teeth or using mints or chewing gum.

In some cases, bad breath may be caused by health risk factors such as smoking or gum disease. In other cases, it may be caused by problems with the sinuses, throat, or lungs. Diagnosis of bad breath requires an examination that includes taking a medical history and conducting a physical exam to rule out other possible causes of halitosis.

Treatment for Halitosis?

There is no one-size-fits-all treatment for this condition. In other words, what works for one person might not work for another. Treatment options vary depending on the cause and severity of bad breath. Prevention is also addressed at each stage in treatment planning. Treatment options may include good oral hygiene practices, dietary changes, and homeopathic medicine. Products that can be used to eliminate or mask bad breath include toothpastes, mints, gum, mouthwash sprays pastes or paints.

People with halitosis often recover from it through surgery to remove impacted food particles from the throat (cure) or cheating death (prognosis). However, in some cases bad breath may be a sign of a more serious underlying condition and requires treatment by a health care professional.

Here are some general tips that can help with the problem:

1) Drink plenty of fluids and keep hydrated – this will help reduce bad breath.

2) Maintain good oral hygiene by brushing your teeth and tongue regularly – make sure to brush gently but thoroughly, from the back towards the front of your tongue.

3) If you have chronic sinusitis, antibiotics may be helpful in treating the condition and reducing bad breath.

4) Speak to your dentist, doctor or chemist to identify the cause of your halitosis and find the most effective treatment for you.

How to prevent bad breath?

There are a number of ways to prevent bad breath, including proper tooth care, addressing tooth decay issues and brushing twice a day for two minutes each time, gargling after every meal, and using an air freshener or chewing gum. Further, brushing your tongue with a tongue scraper can also aid in bacteria removal is another approach to fight bad breath.

Those with poor dental health habits can also affect their breath negatively. Foods like garlic, onions, and meats may cause bad breath due to the sulfur compounds they contain which can react with bacteria in the mouth and lead to an odor that smells akin to eggs or rotten eggs. Bad breath is also a sign of other health problems, so it is important to see a doctor or dentist if you experience this symptom regularly.

 If you brush and floss correctly and go to the dentist regularly, but your bad breath persists, you may have a medical condition such as gingivitis or sinusitis that needs to be addressed by a health practitioner.