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Halitosis: Causes of Bad Breath

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Do you have bad breath? Perhaps your daily routine could benefit from some changes. Bad breath (halitosis) can be caused by a number of things including the foods you eat or a lack of effective oral hygiene. Here's a list of things that are known to cause bad breath:

  1. Skipping meals or dieting: Believe it or not, skipping meals or dieting can make your breath smell bad. This is because when fat in the body breaks down, chemicals called ketones are released, and ketones smell bad. To avoid this, try to eat regular meals at least three to four hours apart.
  2. Medical Conditions: Certain medical conditions can also cause bad breath, including diabetes, sinus infections, stomach problems and tonsillitis. If one of the common remedies for bad breath doesn't clear up your condition, be sure to talk to your doctor or dental professional.
  3. Not Brushing Enough: Not brushing enough, or not brushing correctly can mean that you don’t properly remove food from your teeth. According to Seeman et al (2014), in 90 percent of cases, bad breath is due to poor oral hygiene and gum disease. Be sure to check in with your dental professional regularly, and remember to brush your teeth twice a day for 120 seconds per session to remove bacteria that can cause bad breath. Don’t forget to brush your tongue as well. Your tongue harbours many odour causing bacteria.
  4. Diet: Garlic is delicious on your pizza, but it's downright unpleasant on your breath. If you have an occasion where you need your breath to smell especially fresh, skip foods such as onions and garlic. Coffee and alcohol can also cause bad breath as they tend to cause a decrease in saliva production, which in turn leads to an increase in odour-causing bacteria.
  5. Dry Mouth: Also known as xerostomia, dry mouth is a common cause of bad breath. Saliva is responsible for clearing away odour-causing cells inside your mouth. If you don't make enough saliva, the cells can stay inside your mouth and cause bad breath. According to the Victorian Government’s Better Health initiative, dry mouth can be caused by various medical treatments and medications.
  6. Tobacco Products: There are dozens of reasons to stop smoking or chewing tobacco and bad breath is one of them. According to the Queensland Department of Health, smoking inhibits the breakdown of bacteria of food products in the mouth. This means that smokers and chewers often suffer from a residual tobacco smell on their breath and a buildup of bacteria inside the mouth that can cause odour.

With a little bit of care and attention to your daily routine, you can keep your breath fresh and your smile inviting. If your bad breath problem persists, talk to a dental professional or a doctor.


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.