Do I really have bad breath?


As we’ve all been wearing masks over the past year, many of us have realized that our breath might not smell that great. While gum or mints can be handy in a bind, they are only a temporary fix for bad breath (halitosis) Many people suffer from bad breath, but it can cause embarrassment or in severe cases, even anxiety. It can also affect self-esteem. Knowing how to treat and prevent bad breath is an important part of overall self-hygiene. Let’s discuss some common causes of bad breath and how to address them.


Poor Oral Hygiene/Lack of Professional Dental Care
At the most basic level making sure you are regularly seeing a dentist and hygienist is important in addition to good home care habits. Removing plaque and bacteria twice a day (with brushing and flossing) is imperative to prevent a buildup of odor-causing bacteria. If food is left in the mouth the process of the food breaking down will cause an odor, which is why removing it daily is essential. It’s also a good idea to use a tongue scraper instead of a toothbrush for tongue cleaning, as it does a better job and the tongue is home to many bacteria. In addition, having a professional dental cleaning regularly removes calculus where bacteria hide both above and below the gum line. Reducing the overall amount of bacteria will ensure fresher breath.

Tobacco Use
Both smoking and smokeless tobacco can add their kind of bad breath. They also greatly increase the risk of gum disease, which again produces halitosis.

Gum disease can produce a distinct smell as can other oral infections. These could include an abscess, tooth decay, or infected surgical wounds.

Dry Mouth
You can thank your “morning breath” in part to dry mouth. Our mouths dry out during the night, more so for mouth breathers and sometimes with a CPAP machine. Other people suffer from chronic dry mouth, read more about that here. Saliva acts as a cleansing agent and helps to maintain a balanced pH in the oral cavity. With less saliva, the mouth can become more acidic which creates an environment for odor-causing bacteria.

Nose & Throat Conditions
These conditions can include, post-nasal drip, allergies, sinus infections, acid reflux, tonsillitis, or tonsil stones. Tonsil stones are small white/yellow bits of food and debris covered in bacteria that become trapped in the folds of the tonsils and have a foul smell. These stones can become dislodged on their own and you may be able to see them upon close examination.

periodontal diseases

Other risk factors for periodontal disease include but are not limited to:

  • Stress
  • Age
  • Poor Nutrition/Obesity
  • Osteoporosis
  • Autoimmune Diseases
  • Clenching/Grinding Teeth
  • Medications


Mayo Clinic