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Common Causes of Bad Breath

Posted on 8/22/2022 by Stephanie Day
Bad Breath? Common Causes and FixesApproximately one in four people experience chronic bad breath, also called halitosis. While it may feel a little embarrassing to talk about, the right combination of treatments and lifestyle changes can make it an easy fix. This article will look at common halitosis culprits and what you can do to freshen your breath.

Dry mouth

One of the most common causes of bad breath that everything seems to circle back around to. A dry mouth lacks saliva, a critical component of a healthy smile. Saliva keeps the mouth moist, helps break down sugars, neutralizes harmful acids and germs, and defends against tooth decay and gum disease. Without saliva, your mouth becomes a breeding ground for unpleasant smells.

If you're experiencing dry mouth, it's essential to identify the root cause, such as medications, medical conditions, or lifestyle choices.

Some medications are known to cause bad breath:
•  Some antidepressants like Prozac (fluoxetine) and Zoloft (sertraline):
•  Blood pressure-lowering medicines called beta-blockers, such as atenolol or metoprolol.
•  Some antihistamines for allergies like loratadine (Claritin), fexofenadine (Allegra), cetirizine (Zyrtec), rupatadine hydrochloride (Patanase)

Smoking and Tobacco Use

Smoking is one of the most common lifestyle choices behind bad breath. In addition to leaving a stale smoke scent in your mouth, throat, and lungs, cigarettes also leave trace chemicals behind that can become stinky when mixed with saliva. Smoking also dries out your mouth; we already know from above how a dry mouth affects your breath.

Smokeless or chewing tobacco can also be as harmful as it contains high nicotine levels. As you chew it, you ingest the nicotine, reaching your bloodstream through the lining of your mouth, causing dry mouth and potentially gum disease.


While alcohol use isn't the most common cause of bad breath, it can be a contributor. It's important to note that your mouth will not necessarily smell like alcohol when you drink—as with cigarette smoking, alcohol does not produce an odor. Rather, alcohol-related halitosis occurs when the byproducts of consuming alcohol stay in your mouth and on your teeth for too long after consumption.

Additionally, drinking large amounts of alcohol can lead to dehydration, resulting in a bacterial build-up inside the mouth. Left unchecked, this can create a messy situation of decay and gum disease - all stink contributors.


It's common for most people to drink coffee, especially in the morning. Drinking coffee reduces saliva production in your mouth due to the flavor component in the coffee. Therefore, there is a high probability of an odor in your mouth with less saliva. Combat the drying effects by following your cup of coffee with a glass of water.

Certain Foods, like Garlic and Onions

Some foods, such as garlic and onions, contribute massively to bad breath. When the food breaks down, the absorbed substances go to the blood and lungs, affecting your breath while their particles remain in the mouth, thus causing bad breath.

Preventing & Treating Bad Breath

If you're worried about bad breath, the good news is for most people; it is treatable and preventable.

•  Eat a balanced diet rich in fresh fruits and veggies.
•  Drink lots of water throughout the day, especially after coffee or meals. Hydration is SO important for the health of your smile!
•  Use a tongue scraper to remove bacteria from the surface of your tongue.
•  Floss at least once daily to remove food particles and smelly plaque between your teeth.
•  Use a toothbrush with soft bristles and brush gently, in small circular motions, and for two minutes twice daily (morning and night). Brush all areas of your teeth, including those at the back of your mouth, where plaque can accumulate behind your molars.
•  Keep up to date on your professional dental cleanings and yearly dental exam, as bad breath can signify many health problems, including gum disease, tooth decay, and infections. Also, for persistent dry mouth, our team does have options we can recommend to you during your visit.

Bad breath can be embarrassing, but it doesn't have to keep you from living your life. If you notice that your mouth smells odd, we recommend scheduling a dental visit with Dr. Bryan Hill to help identify the cause of your bad breath and give you treatment recommendations that can leave you confidently fresh. Call us at (509) 468-4040 or request an appointment today!
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Smile More Spokane Family Dentistry maintains a dental blog to help educate and inform our patients about topics that affect their oral health.
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