Bad Breath — Causes and Fixes

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Man with bad breath covering his mouth.

Bad Breath — Causes and Fixes

It’s estimated that more than 60% of Americans suffer from bad breath (also known as halitosis). Maybe you had a few onions on your salad at lunch or garlic bread with your pasta at supper. But bad breath isn’t necessarily the result of pungent foods. Often it’s a sign that it’s time to up your dental hygiene game. Sometimes it’s a red flag of an underlying health problem.

Why Do I Have Bad Breath?

There are many reasons you could have bad breath. Some are more obvious than others.


There are hundreds of types of bad breath-causing bacteria that naturally live in your mouth. When you eat, bacteria feed on the food left in your mouth and leave a foul-smelling waste product behind.

Dry Mouth

Your mouth might not be making enough saliva. If you don’t have enough, your mouth isn’t being cleaned as much as it should be. Dry mouth can be caused by certain medications, salivary gland problems, or by breathing through your mouth.

Gum Disease

Bad breath that won’t go away, or a constant bad taste in your mouth, can be a warning sign of advanced gum disease, which is caused by a sticky, cavity-causing bacteria called plaque.


What you eat affects the air you exhale (remember the onions and garlic?).

Smoking and Tobacco

Smoking stains your teeth, gives you bad breath, and puts you at risk for health problems.

Health Problems

In some instances, bad breath can be an indicator of a more serious health condition. These include:

How to Freshen Your Breath

Improving your breath is as easy as following a good daily oral hygiene routine.

Brush and Floss

Brush twice a day and clean between your teeth daily with floss to get rid of all that bacteria that’s causing your bad breath.

Take Care of Your Tongue

Don’t forget about your tongue when you’re taking care of your teeth. If you stick out your tongue and look way back, you’ll see a white or brown coating. That’s where most of bad breath bacteria can be found. Use a toothbrush or a tongue scraper to clear them out.


Over-the-counter mouthwashes can help kill bacteria or neutralize and temporarily mask bad breath.

Clean Your Dentures

If you wear removable dentures, take them out at night, and clean them thoroughly before using them again the next morning.

Keep That Saliva Flowing

To get more saliva moving in your mouth, try eating healthy foods that require a lot of chewing, like carrots or apples. You also can try chewing sugar-free gum.

Quit Smoking

Giving up this dangerous habit is good for your body in many ways.

Lastly, visit your dentist regularly. Checkups and cleanings help maintain a healthy mouth.

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