Causes of Bad Breath: What is the Connection Between Bad Breath and Dental Health?

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Nobody wants to feel like they’re the one at the party with bad breath. While this happens to everyone occasionally, persistent strong bad breath is a medical condition known as halitosis—and it can be a symptom that something is wrong with your oral health. There are plenty of bad breath causes, but there are also simple, effective treatments to freshen your breath and keep your mouth healthy.

What Is Bad Breath (Halitosis) And How Common Is It?

The most common of bad breath causes comes from neglecting good oral hygiene, and it’s an extremely common result when your daily oral care routine falls by the wayside. Medical halitosis, or consistent, foul-smelling breath, is rarer and can come from different causes. While bad breath isn’t fun to be around, it’s common enough that patients who suffer from it shouldn’t feel ashamed or hopeless about their condition.

What Are the Causes of Bad Breath?

There are plenty of bad breath causes, some are more serious than others. While simply eating strong-smelling food can affect your breath, halitosis can also be a symptom of more advanced conditions that have nothing to do with the mouth—like diabetes for example. Learning some of the most common causes can help you pinpoint which one may be causing your bad breath.

Poor Oral Hygiene

By far the most common of bad breath causes, poor oral hygiene like inconsistent brushing or flossing, not drinking enough water, not using mouthwash, or skipping dental visits can leave leftover food particles in your mouth which are broken down by bacteria. These bacteria create the foul odors of bad breath, as well as decay the structures in your mouth like your teeth and gums.


Foods are another common cause of bad breath, with some foods containing chemicals and odor-causing compounds that are difficult to get rid of even with brushing and flossing. This is because many of these compounds are absorbed into the bloodstream and lungs, and are noticeable when we exhale. These odors will only go away after they have been broken down by the body. Some common odor-causing foods include garlic, onions, cheese, certain deli meats and spices, soda, and alcohol.

Dry Mouth

There is a big connection between bad breath and dry mouth (known in medical terms as xerostomia). Your saliva is constantly working to neutralize acids in your mouth, wash away food particles, and protect your teeth and gums from decay. If you have especially dry mouth and your saliva production is compromised, the bacteria and dead cells in your mouth will start to decompose and cause bad breath. Consistent dry mouth can be a side effect of some medications, indicate an underlying problem with your salivary glands, or as a result of breathing through your mouth.

Mouth Infections

Certain medical conditions can cause foul odors in the mouth. Cavities are areas of decay in the enamel of your teeth that can give off foul odors, especially if they progress to the point of infection. Gum disease (gingivitis) is caused by the buildup of harmful bacteria on the teeth, and certain yeast infections of the mouth can all be bad breath causes.

Mouth, Nose, and Throat Conditions

Similarly, sinus infections, strep throat, or other viral and bacterial conditions in the mouth and throat can create odor-causing bacteria. Stagnant mucus or pus from these infections all give off foul odors.

Diseases and Illnesses

In certain cases, bad breath can be a symptom of medical conditions that have nothing to do with the mouth or are only loosely connected. Diabetes, for example, has been shown to sometimes affect the breath due to the body’s inability to regulate sugars. As the body breaks down fat instead of glucose, it produces chemicals called ketones, which can give off an acetone-like smell. Other diseases and illnesses that may cause bad breath include:

  • Seasonal allergies
  • Respiratory tract infections such as pneumonia or bronchitis
  • Chronic acid reflux
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Infections of the lungs
  • Issues with the liver or kidneys

Tobacco Products

Among the many reasons to not use tobacco products, they can also contribute to bad breath. Tobacco smoke has a strong scent which can become stale in the mouth, as well as causing dry mouth and other diseases of the mouth and gums.

When to See a Dentist

If you’ve noticed that your breath smells, your first step should be changing up your daily oral care routine. You should be brushing twice a day, in the mornings and the evenings, with fluoride toothpaste and a clean brush. Make sure you change out your brush at a minimum every three months. Floss in the evenings to remove any food particles in between your teeth, and try using an antiseptic mouthwash for bad breath. Finally, try brushing or scraping your tongue, as plenty of cells and food particles can collect there. If your daily oral care routine contains all of these things and you still have bad breath, call your dentist for an appointment.

How to Prevent Bad Breath

Aside from proper oral hygiene, some tips to prevent bad breath include:

  • Drink more water to wash away food particles and help increase your saliva production.
  • Chew mint-flavored, sugar-free gum to help remove food particles and impart a fresh scent into your breath.
  • Eat more fresh fruits and vegetables. Hard-skinned foods like apples, carrots, celery, and can remove plaque and help fight odors.
  • Finally, regular dental visits are crucial for preventing bad breath. Your dentist can clean areas of your mouth that are difficult to reach with your daily brushing, removing leftover food particles and odor-causing plaque. Your dentist can also help diagnose atypical bad breath causes and provide specialized treatment for stubborn cases of halitosis.

If you or a family member are struggling with bad breath, call Spanish Springs Family Dental care and make an appointment with one of our experienced and professional dentists. We’re ready to provide family dental care in Northern Nevada so our patients never have to feel self-conscious about their breath or worry about the state of their oral health. Call today to schedule your first appointment with Spanish Springs Family Dental.

Schedule an Appointment Now

Ready to see the difference in your smile? Call us, send us a message or come see us in person and let us welcome you to our Spanish Springs Family Dental clinic. We will care for your whole family in a space that is comfortable and welcoming, and the results will speak for themselves. Make your appointment today!