Bad Breath (Halitosis): Causes, Remedies, and Treatments

Bad Breath (Halitosis): Causes, Remedies, and Treatments article banner

What is Halitosis?

Bad breath, or halitosis, is mainly caused by the buildup of bacteria in the mouth, which produces a foul smell. Bad breath can be embarrassing, but fortunately once you have identified the causes, you can begin treatment.

Causes of Bad Breath (Halitosis)

The accumulation of bad breath bacteria most often comes from a lack of a complete oral care routine resulting in a buildup of plaque bacteria around the gum line and back of tongue. Other causes of bad breath include dietary choices, a buildup of bacteria while sleeping, stress, and dehydration.

Halitosis has many causes, including the following:

  • Tobacco use. If you smoke, quit. Your bad breath may be due to other causes, too, but tobacco use is a guarantee of bad breath. If you are ready to quit, ask your doctor or dentist for advice and support.

  • What you eat, or don't eat. Certain foods, such as garlic, contribute to bad breath, but only temporarily. Once they are absorbed into the bloodstream, the smell is expelled through the breath, but the odors remain until the body processes the food, so there’s no quick fix.

  • Dry mouth. If your mouth is extremely dry, there is not enough saliva to wash away excess food particles and bacteria, which can cause an unpleasant smell if they build up on the teeth.

On rare occasions, bad breath can be a sign of a more serious medical condition so it’s important not to ignore the problem and to see a dental professional if the problem persists. By following a proper oral care routine, you can help improve your bad breath.

Bad Breath Remedies

Brush. Floss. Rinse. It sounds pretty simple, yet it’s the best routine to help you win the battle against bad breath.

After understanding the cause of your bad breath, you can begin taking the proper steps to help achieve fresher breath. These easy steps will help you get the most from your dental health routine:

  1. Round out your routine with a mouthwash that fights bad breath and odor-causing compounds found in certain foods to keep your mouth at its freshest.

  2. Limit caffeinated and alcoholic drinks, as well as sugary and acidic juices, and drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. The amount of water you need will vary based on your physical build and daily activity level.

  3. Chew sugarless gum to stimulate saliva production. Eating a mint is a temporary but less recommended method for breath freshening because it can leave a sugary residue behind.

  4. Floss daily to help prevent food particles from becoming trapped, as well as the buildup of plaque.

  5. Brush your teeth for two minutes twice a day with an Oral-B Electric Toothbrush to remove plaque bacteria. Follow up with a good tongue brushing. Pay special attention to the back of your tongue, where most odor-causing bacteria are found.

Bad Breath Treatments

Bad breath that seems to have no other cause may indicate an infection elsewhere in the body. If you have chronic bad breath and your dental professional rules out any oral problems, see your doctor for an evaluation. Bad breath can be a sign of a range of conditions including respiratory tract infections, chronic sinusitis or bronchitis, diabetes, or liver and kidney problems, so it's important not to ignore the problem.

The best way to improve bad breath is to follow a thorough oral care routine including twice-daily tooth brushing and daily flossing to remove the food particles and bacteria that can cause bad breath. Mouthwashes only improve bad breath for the short term, and if you have a chronic problem, your dental professional may suggest an antimicrobial rinse to help keep bacteria at bay.