Why does my Breath Smell Bad?

Why does my Breath Smell Bad? Bad breath, or Halitosis, is defined as an unpleasant smell coming from the mouth. It can be a temporary problem or a chronic condition. It may be caused by poor oral hygiene, certain foods, diseases, or other factors. Bad breath can be embarrassing, lowers self-esteem, and affects everyday life and personal relationships.

Here we will describe possible causes of temporary and chronic bad breath:

Poor Oral Hygiene

This is the most common cause of bad breath. If you don’t brush and floss daily, food particles remain trapped between your teeth, along your gum lines, and, especially, on the surface of your tongue. The naturally occurring bacteria in your mouth break down these food particles and release stinky compounds which give rise to the dreaded bad breath.

Strong Foods and Drinks

Food is the primary source of bad odors that come from the mouth. Eating strongly flavored foods, such as onions, garlic, and spices can make your breath smell. After you digest these foods, they enter your bloodstream and are carried to your lungs, and hence affect your breath. Strong-smelling drinks, such as alcohol and coffee, can also cause bad breath. Usually, bad breath caused by food and drink is temporary.

Dry Mouth

Saliva helps keep your mouth clean by removing food particles that cause bad odors. In dry mouth or Xerostomia, the production of saliva is decreased, causing more bacteria than normal to build up in your mouth, leading to bad breath. Dry mouth may be caused by salivary gland problems, certain medications, or continuously breathing through the mouth.

Morning Breath

Most people have bad breath when they wake up in the morning. This occurs because saliva production slows down while you sleep, leading to a drier mouth, which allows odor-causing bacteria to grow. It’s made worse if you breathe through your mouth while you sleep.

Dentures, Dental Fillings

Dental fillings and fixed bridges can trap food particles and breed bacteria, resulting in cavities, gum disease, and bad breath. Dentures that aren’t cleaned regularly or don’t fit properly can cause the same problems.

Mouth Infections

Cavities, gum disease, or mouth sores may cause bad breath. Food can get caught in the cavities and lead to bad smell. Plaque is a colorless, sticky film of bacteria that forms on your teeth. If not brushed away, plaque can irritate your gums and eventually form pockets or small openings between your teeth and gums (gum disease or periodontitis). Food particles and bacteria collect in these pockets, causing persistent bad breath.

Respiratory Tract Infections

When you have bronchitis, sinus infection (sinusitis), postnasal drip, cold or allergies, your sinuses will produce more mucus. The extra mucus trickles down the back of your throat and eventually travels into your mouth, settles on the surface of your tongue, and causes bad breath. Odor-causing bacteria are attracted to the proteins in mucus. Moreover, if you have a stuffy nose, you are more likely to resort to mouth-breathing, which can dry out your mouth, and worsen your breath.

Digestive Issues

Poor digestion, constipation, or bowel disorders can all cause unpleasant odor on the breath. Acid reflux from the stomach to the esophagus, as in gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD, can produce a nasty smell and cause bad breath.

Fasting and Dieting

Fasting, crash-dieting, and low-carbohydrate diets are other possible reasons for smelly breath. They cause the body to burn fat as its energy source, which produces chemicals called ketones, that cause bad breath.


If you smoke, your breath will probably smell of burnt tobacco. Smoking also has a tendency to dry the mouth, which leaves it without bacteria-cleansing saliva, making your breath even worse. Moreover, smokers and oral tobacco users are also more likely to have gum disease, another major cause of bad breath.


Even though it’s a liquid, alcohol can actually dry out your mouth, by decreasing saliva production, which increases bacteria that cause bad breath.


Certain medicines, including antihistamines to treat allergies, diuretics, and antidepressants can reduce saliva flow and cause dry mouth, which can result in bad breath. Moreover, when some drugs break down in the body, they release chemicals that can affect your breath.

Other Medical Conditions

Bad breath, especially with unusual breath odor, can also be a warning sign that other diseases or illnesses may be present. Diabetes, liver and kidney diseases can all cause bad breath. Serious conditions such as metabolic disorders and some cancers can cause a distinctive breath odor as a result of chemicals they produce.

In most cases, bad breath can be cured and prevented with simple home remedies and lifestyle changes. For example improved dental hygiene and quitting smoking. However, if the problem persists, see your doctor to be sure a more serious condition is not causing your bad breath.

(Read more about Foods that help fight bad breath)

Disclaimer: All material on Hidoc.co is provided for informational purposes only and should not be taken as a substitute for professional medical or health advice. Always seek the advice of your physician for any questions regarding your symptoms or medical condition and before taking any home remedies or supplements.

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