Causes of Bad Breath

causes of bad breath

You are sitting in a meeting leaning over to tell a colleague something, your friend pulls back reflexively; uh oh you have bad breath.  The medical term for this condition is halitosis. At some time more than half of Americans will suffer from this condition. Most of the time bad breath occurs from a problem with the mouth. Although embarrassing bad breath can be treated successfully.

Causes of Bad Breath

  1. Bacteria that emit hydrogen sulfide (the odor of rotten eggs) are a contributing cause of halitosis. These bacteria tend to accumulate in the back of our tongues. So any habits that contribute to bacterial growth will increase the chances for bad breath.
  2. Food – onions, spices, garlic, sugar, and alcohol. Chemicals from these products are broken down during digestion, they go into the bloodstream and are expelled through the lungs, contributing to an unpleasant odor
  3. Tobacco
  4. Poor oral hygiene – if plaque accumulates it can lead to an infection called periodontitis. All infections have a fetid odor. Thus it is necessary to brush 2x daily for two minutes each time, with a small soft toothbrush Use a new toothbrush every 3-4 months. It is critical to brush the back of the tongue gently with a toothbrush or tongue scraper. Floss at least 1x daily preferably before going to sleep. Use a non-abrasive, fluoride toothpaste, or antibacterial toothpaste and mouthwashes). Keep removable dentures clean and out of the mouth when sleeping. 
  5. Dry mouth – Xerostomia will allow bacteria to grow, emit hydrogen sulfide and bad smells. Any modality such as oral medications, snoring with mouth open, sleep apnea, blocked salivary glands will cause dry mouth, especially in the morning, “morning mouth”. 
  6. Medications that cause dry mouth or stomach upset ie antihistamines, sedatives, antireflux, amphetamines, antidepressants, diuretics, decongestants, and certain vitamins
  7. Infections in the mouth – decay, gum disease, sores, and surgical wounds all smell bad
  8. Other mouth and throat conditions – tonsil stones, postnasal drip, sinus problems, 
  9. Systemic problems – stomach problems, metabolic disorders, cancer, reflux (gastroesophageal reflux, GERD), diabetes, kidney failure, liver failure, peptic ulcer, and intestinal blockage
  10. Bad habits – nail biting

Diagnosis Of Bad Breath


Ask a close family member or friend to smell breath. If the condition is severe and it’s affecting your life see us at 172 NYC Dental. Sometimes we use scrapping from the back of the tongue to determine the severity of the problem. There are machines that quantify the odor; we find them to be unreliable.

Treatments and Lifestyle Changes

  1. Anything that will kill the bad bacteria and prevent dry mouth including:
  2. Proper brushing and flossing (using antibacterial toothpaste)
  3. Using antibacterial mouthwashes that are alcohol-free (Smart Mouth, Therabreath) 
  4. Brushing back of the tongue
  5. Cleaning removable prosthesis, and not wearing at night
  6. Avoiding dry mouth
  7. Decreasing sugar in the diet 
  8. New toothbrush every 3-4 months (soft)
  9. See Us-for biannual checkups 
  10. Nasal saline rinses if have post nasal drip
  11. Drink more water
  12. Diet-drink pineapple juice and eat fennel seeds

Visit 172 NYC Dental Today

Bad breath affects a lot of us. Since most issues arise from mouth problems it is wise to come to see us at 172 NYC Dental for an evaluation and check-up, it is complimentary! Call us at 646-921-5541 to make an appointment today. 

About Dr. Benjamin Ahn

Meet Dr. Benjamin Ahn, a top-rated general, and cosmetic dentist and one of the best Invisalign dentist practicing at 209 NYC Dental, a multi-specialty dental practice in Midtown East Manhattan.

Questions? Contact us online or give us a call at 646-921-5541 today!
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