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Can Cavities Cause Bad Breath?

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Most people wake in the morning with less than kissable breath. But when bad breath, also known as halitosis, interferes with your confidence and social life, it’s time to figure out what’s causing it. Can cavities cause bad breath? And is your oral care routine strong enough to keep bad breath away? In this article, we’ll answer these questions, discuss what may be the cause – and teach you how you can remedy it. Let's dive in!

What causes bad breath?

Bad breath usually results from bacteria accumulating in the mouth. According to Better Health Channel, when sulphur-producing bacteria feed off proteins, they release foul-smelling volatile sulphur compounds (VSC) from the back of the tongue and throat. The sulphur compounds are what we smell when we realise it’s time to grab a mint. As Better Health Channel explains, bad breath can be caused by:

  • Poor oral hygiene
  • Dental factors such as periodontitis
  • Bacteria on the tongue
  • Smoking
  • Alcohol

Less common causes include post-nasal drip, acid reflux from the stomach, various health disorders and certain foods (for a limited time).

Do cavities cause bad breath?

Cavities are holes in the teeth where bacteria collect and eat away at the enamel and dentine. While the cavities themselves don’t create a horrible-smelling breath (as a cavity is simply a hole), they can cause it, according to healthdirect. This is because bacteria can get stuck and accumulate in these decayed areas. As bacteria break down tiny food particles, they can release a foul-smelling gas which causes bad breath.

If you have bad breath, it does not mean you have a cavity, but then again, you might! This is another reason why regular dental appointments are vital – your dental professional can check for cavities. Also, see your dental professional immediately if you suspect a cavity or experience tooth sensitivity or pain.

Manage bad breath and cavities like a pro

One of the easiest ways to manage and prevent bad breath and cavities is to practice good oral hygiene. Start with brushing twice daily. Brushing your teeth removes decay-causing bacteria and food particles. You should also floss daily to remove lingering bacteria and food particles hiding in between your teeth.

Keeping your mouth moist is vital for fresh breath, too. A healthy saliva flow is one of the best defences against bad breath. According to Queensland Health, saliva washes away oral bacteria, has antibacterial properties and assists in lubricating your mouth for chewing, which helps keep your mouth clean. Make sure you drink plenty of water and talk to your doctor about any possible contributing factors for dry mouth, such as taking certain medications.

As the Dental Practice Education Research Unit at the University of Adelaide states, smoking is another contributor to bad breath (smokers’ breath) and gum disease. If you smoke, and you feel you can’t kick this dangerous habit alone, ask your doctor or dental professional for strategies to help you quit.

If you wear dentures, as Queensland Health’s Health Directory suggests in the link above, cleaning and soaking them overnight in an antibacterial solution can help to prevent bad breath. Follow your dental professional's specific directions for cleaning your appliance.

Finally, regularly visiting your dental professional ensures that your mouth stays healthy. A professional teeth cleaning can remove bacteria and food that your toothbrush at home may miss. Your dental professional will also check for decay that may harbour harmful bacteria. If they do detect any cavities, they can fill them to stop the decay from worsening.

Bad breath can be an unpleasant condition to live with. While cavities don’t directly cause bad breath, you can prevent bad breath – and cavities – by practising good oral hygiene and seeing your dental professional regularly.


This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.