Causes of Bad Breath


Do you find yourself constantly worried about bad breath? Maybe you’re the type of person who always has gum or mints on them, or avoids talking closely with others?

If you think you might be suffering from halitosis, the fancy name for bad breath, you can address the issue by getting to the root of the cause. We’ve put together a list of the top five causes of bad breath, so you can banish the problem once and for all – and get your confidence back.


The most common cause of bad breath is poor oral hygiene. Bacteria that build up on a person’s teeth, tongue and gums can cause plaque (the soft, white deposit that forms on the teeth’s surface), gum disease and tooth decay. When bacteria combine with saliva to break down food particles and proteins, it releases an unpleasant-smelling gas.

Forgetting to brush and floss your teeth regularly means that any food trapped between your teeth will be broken down by the bacteria, causing bad breath. Bacteria can also live in the rough surface of your tongue. Therefore, as well as brushing your teeth, cleaning your tongue can also help control bad breath.


Foods such as garlic, onions and spices are all likely to make your breath smell. Strong-smelling drinks, including coffee and alcohol, can also cause bad breath. Bad breath caused by food and drink is usually temporary, and can be avoided by not eating or drinking these types of food and drink too often.


Smoking is another cause of bad breath. As well as making your breath smell, smoking can also stain your teeth, irritate your gums and lessen your sense of taste. Smoking also increases your risk of developing gum disease, which is another cause of bad breath. Stopping smoking will lower your risk of gum disease and thus help prevent bad breath.


Unfortunately, some types of medication can also cause bad breath. Medications associated with bad breath include:

  • Nitrates – which are sometimes used to treat angina (chest pain caused by a restriction in the blood supply to the heart).
  • Some chemotherapy medication.
  • Tranquilisers (Phenothiazines).

If the medication you’re taking is causing bad breath, your general doctor may be able to recommend an alternative.


Bad breath can sometimes be caused by other external medical conditions, such as:

  • Dry mouth, also known as xerostomia, which affects the flow of saliva – a lack of saliva can cause bacteria to build up in the mouth, leading to bad breath.
  • Gastrointestinal conditions – for example, H. pylori infections (bacterial infections of the stomach lining and small intestine) and gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD) have been linked with bad breath.
  • Lung, throat or nose infections, bronchitis and sinusitis.
  • Diabetes.

Having regular dental check-ups will ensure that any oral hygiene problems are picked up and treated early. Your dentist can advise on how often you need a check-up and also help you address the issue.

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Dr. Deepak Dawar

BDS , 14+ years experience

Dentist , Implantologist , Cosmetic/Aesthetic Dentist