Causes of Bad Breath

Halitosis is not only a scary word; it is also a smelly situation. Many people of all ages experience halitosis, or bad breath, sometime in their life. The causes of halitosis are many. Diet, poor habits, and diseases, both oral and systemic, are the main contributors of this embarrassing condition.


Can you believe that bad breath can come from your lungs? It’s true! Food is broken down in the mouth and then digested and absorbed into the bloodstream and then carried to your lungs. Foods that have strong odors (such as garlic and onion) can affect your breath. Brushing, flossing, and mouthwash can temporarily mask these odors; however these odors remain detectable until the food passes completely through the system.

Poor Dental Habits

Lack of proper brushing and flossing not only allows food particles to remain in the mouth, but also can lead to periodontal disease and caries (cavities). These food particles promote bacterial growth between teeth and on the tongue which in turn cause mouth odor. Food particles can also remain under dentures if they are not removed and cleaned frequently, or if they are ill-fitting. The use of tobacco products is also a contributing factor to halitosis. Smoking and oral tobacco use not only accounts for an unpleasant odor of its own, but also contributes to periodontal disease.


Various diseases in the mouth and throat as well as systemic diseases can cause bad breath. Some examples include:

  • Periodontal disease/dental caries
  • Surgical wounds, such as after tooth extraction
  • Nose, sinus, or tonsil infections
  • Postnasal drip from illness or allergies
  • Chronic reflux of stomach acids (gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD)
  • Mouth breathing including “morning breath”
  • Medications used to treat various health conditions

What to do

If you are concerned about halitosis, be aware that it is difficult to assess how your own breath smells. The first step is to ask a family member or friend about your concern. If there is a notable problem, you can take action to get rid of the odor. Begin by being diligent with your oral hygiene routine. Brush and floss daily.

Contact our office at least twice a year. We can provide treatment and education materials to help you conquer bad breath. Watch your diet for smell-inducing foods and beverages and drink lots of water. With a few behavior modifications such as these, you may be able to manage your halitosis.