Bad Breath

Bad breath: We all have it from time to time. Here are some possible causes:


  • Can be caused by dry mouth (which can result from mouth breathing, medication side effects, or other causes).


  • Can be caused by your diet (sulfurous compounds in onions, garlic etc.). These can get into your body, particularly into your lungs or respiratory system, and create bad breath from within.


  • Can be caused by poor oral hygiene or gum disease. Imagine putting food into a trash can on a 98 degree day and leaving it out. How does it smell? That’s what leaving food particles and plaque on your teeth is like.


  • Can be caused by tobacco use in any form.


  • Can be caused by health problems. (ex. Respiratory infection, stomach ailment, liver ailment, kidney ailment, diabetes)


  • Can be caused by the digestive process for certain foods.


  • Can be caused by tooth decay or other dental problems.


Probably the first thing to try if you have persistent bad breath is to ramp up your oral home care (brushing and flossing)* and also brush your tongue or use a tongue scraper. Some studies suggest that about 70% of bad breath cases resolve by cleaning the tongue. If you haven’t had a professional dental cleaning in a while, you may need to have one to remove hard deposits (tartar or calculus) that your toothbrush and floss won’t remove. 

You may also need to see your dentist to rule out dental problems that could contribute to your bad breath and/or see your physician to rule out medical problems that may contribute to your bad breath.


If medication causing dry mouth, talk to whoever prescribed it to see if there’s a  different one you can take that may not have this side effect.

Additional information about Bad Breath can be found in this selection from the Dear Doctor library. 


*Brush your teeth at least twice a day and floss once a day (at bedtime is best). Ask your dentist or hygienist to show you the proper way to brush and floss. You may also want to get a disclosing tablet or solution to check that you are removing all that you think you’re removing. A toothpaste that contains baking soda or mixing your own paste of baking soda or water may provide temporary relief. 

You can learn more about brushing here: How To Brush You can learn more about flossing here: How To Floss


Note: Information in this article is not intended to replace the clinical judgement of your healthcare professionals.


Dr. Jennifer Robb is a general dentist who sees both adults and children.

1612 Cooper Foster Park Rd.
Lorain, OH 44053