6 Common Causes of Bad Breath

Nothing ruins a date, a doctor’s visit, or even a simple conversation like bad breath.  There’s nothing more awkward than to be on either the receiving or giving end of bad breath.  I once had a teacher in college who had awful breath.  I was only a freshmen, so faculty intimidated me like none other, so most of us endured his breath.  Long story short, I taught myself calculus that semester!

The scientific term for bad breath is halitosis.  Most everybody will experience bad breath in their life, particularly of the morning variety.  Some bad breath causes are more severe than others, and most causes of bad breath can be treated.  Bad breath happens naturally when an influx of bacteria is not being broken down in our mouths.

The cause of bad breath can be a number of things, but here are the six most common cause of bad breath.

Dry Mouth

Most everybody experiences morning breath.  The reason being is because the lack of saliva production when we sleep.

We produce more saliva during the day and when we eat.  The enzymes found in saliva “are essential in beginning the process of digestion of dietary starches and fats.  These enzymes also play a role in breaking down food particles entrapped within dental crevices” (source).

So when our mouths are not producing saliva, our mouths get dry, making it a perfect environment for bacteria to make way, which then causes bad breath.  Hence, morning breath.

You might be a little more of a mouth breather, which tends to dry out your mouth.  If you do breath with your mouth, you might have more issues with bad breath.

You Haven’t Eaten

When we don’t eat, we don’t produce saliva.  This goes hand in hand with dry mouth.  This specifically is sometimes referred to as “Hunger Breath.”  It’s not that hunger is making your breath smell.  It’s the fact that you’re not producing regular saliva.  When you’re not producing saliva, bacteria gathers more easily, and thusly it produces that sulfuric bad breath smell we all hate so much.


We’ve got morning breath, hunger breath, and now let me introduce you to “Smoker’s Breath.”  Smoker’s breath is a little more specific and has more factors than just dry mouth.  Although dry mouth still plays a part, considering inhaling that smoke tends to dry out your mouth, which as we know is a big factor for halitosis.

But more specifically, “the most immediate way that cigarettes cause bad breath is by leaving smoke particles in the throat and lungs.  This effect is typical of nearly any tobacco product that involves inhaling smoke or rolling it around in the mouth.  The smell of a freshly smoked cigarette can linger in the lungs for hours” (source).

You’re Sick

Being sick can cause bad breath for a variety of reasons.  First of all, when we’re sick (allergies or a cold), our bodies have produced too much mucus.  When we’re sleeping and our mucus is draining, some of us might experience something called “post-nasal drip” which is mucus collecting in the back of your throat.  A very uncomfortable feeling, but in regards to your breath, the mucus collection in the back of your throat is a great food source for bacteria that causes bad breath.  I know how much we want to stay in bed when we’re sick, but it’s important to brush your teeth, floss, and rinse with mouthwash when we’re sick to rid ourselves of unnecessary bacteria (source).

Strep throat can also cause some serious bad breath.  Strep is a bacterial infection, and as you know bacteria is the culprit of bad breath.

Not only that, some medications, especially antihistamines, diuretics, antipsychotics, and muscle relaxants, cause dry mouth.  Dry mouth is, as we know, bad breath.


Bad breath might be caused by a cavity or two in your mouth.  If you have a cavity that has not been treated, chances are you’re collecting more bacteria.  Getting a cavity is caused by plaque buildup.  If you build up too much plaque it starts to eat away at your tooth, which causes it to decay, or give you a cavity.  That cavity is already caused by bacteria which causes bad breath, but on top of that, your daily oral hygiene routine is not getting the bacteria rid of the bacteria that is in the cavity.  Thusly, that cavity and the bacteria collecting in it might be the cause to your bad breath.  It’s important to get your cavities treated, and even more important, prevent them from happening (source)!

Drinking Too Much Alcohol

Alcohol is a little different when it comes to bad breath.  When we consume a copious amount of alcohol, our bodies treat it as a toxin.  We start to break it down to a less harmful substance.  Most of it will be converted into acetic acid, but some of it is released through our sweat and our respiratory system.  If you’ve ever had a hangover, that’s the reason you’re sweating so much.  But, when it comes to bad breath, some of the toxins are leaving through our breath.  Literal toxic breath!  Also, the smell can come from our stomach processing the alcohol and making us burp a very unpleasant smell (source).

All of us will experience bad breath at some point, but at least now you know the cause, which will allow you to treat it a little more effectively.  Get some water in you.  Eat a regular diet.  Quit your smoking.  Cut back on the drinking.  And have a happy health mouth!

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Dr. Del Greenhalgh
Green Family Dental
10510 Montwood Drive
El Paso, TX 79935
(915) 778-4681