What could be worse than becoming aware that bad breath might have ruined your first impression on a first date or job interview? No matter what else goes right, if the date or potential employer has a nose full of funky smells, it probably isn’t going to end well. So how can we stop bad breath from ruining those big moments? What causes bad breath anyway?

Can Poor Habits Cause Bad Breath?

Bad breath can be caused by many different factors, and not all of them are easily controllable. However, oral hygiene habits are both a potential cause and cure to bad breath. Habits like failing to brush, floss, or rinse with a mouthwash are obvious causes of bad breath—but simple things like not drinking enough water or breathing through your mouth are also potential bad breath causes. It can be difficult to keep our habits in check, but a few simple adjustments can keep bad breath at bay!

How Does Food Affect Breath?

The most common cause of bad breath is the chemical breakdown of leftover food particles stuck between our teeth. Oral bacteria eat these particles and then excrete very smelly compounds like hydrogen sulfide (which smells like rotten eggs), turning our breath sour. Fortunately, the solution is also simple: brush twice a day, floss daily, use a tongue-scraper to get extra bacteria off your tongue, and chew sugar-free gum after lunch if possible.

What Health Problems Are Associated With Bad Breath?

Aside from hygiene and food habits, bad breath can be a symptom of certain underlying health problems. It’s important to talk to your dentist if you continue to have bad breath after adjusting your normal oral hygiene routine so that they can diagnose any of the following issues:


Mouth-breathing dries out the mouth, which means there isn’t enough saliva to wash away food particles and neutralize acids, so it’s much easier for bad smells to linger. It is difficult to diagnose mouth breathing at a glance, however, dentists can perform several tests, including water retention and lip seal tests, to accurately gauge whether someone breathes through their mouth when they should be breathing through their nose. They can then recommend appliances or techniques to cut down on mouth breathing.


Medications commonly cause dry mouth as a side effect, which leads to the same problems as with mouth-breathing. Certain medications or supplements can indeed be broken down by the body and cause bad breath by themselves, but dry mouth as a side effect is far more common. If the issue persists, you should speak to your dentist who may refer you to your physician in order to change your medication, if possible.

Chronic Health Conditions

Chronic health conditions (even ones without an obvious connection to breath freshness), such as acid reflux, liver or kidney disease, and diabetes can have a surprising effect on the smell of your breath.

Acid reflux can damage the esophagus, and even the teeth, over time, leading to decay and oral damage that can be accompanied by foul smells. Similarly, liver and kidney conditions can affect the way in which food is broken down by the body, creating different smells. Diabetes and dental health are related in this way, as diabetes creates an excess of glucose in the body, especially the saliva, providing more food for the bacteria that create bad odors.

Having a Cold or Sinus Infection

Having a cold or sinus infection can mean a lot of smelly mucous that affects the way breath smells. As your body responds to sickness by creating more mucus, this creates a matrix for odor causing bacteria and pieces of food to get stuck in your mouth and throat, creating bad smells.

Untreated Tooth Decay or Gum Disease

Untreated tooth decay or gum disease tends to go hand-in-hand with halitosis. That’s because the same bacteria that causes bad breath also causes cavities and periodontitis!

As this bacteria accumulates, breath freshness can get worse and worse. Cavities cause bad breath in this way, and in fact, bad breath can often be a symptom that your dentist will pick up on if something is wrong. It’s important to keep biannual checkup appointments with your dentist so they can tell if bad breath is caused by untreated decay that can worsen over time.

How Dry Month Can Cause Bad Breath?

Dry mouth is one of the simplest and most overlooked causes of bad breath. While many might think that saliva is what carries odor causing bacteria, adequate saliva flow is necessary to wash away these bacteria, as well as dead skin cells and pieces of food that accumulate in the mouth and cause odors. Chronic dry mouth, called xerostomia, is a condition that can lead to other, more serious issues, like tooth decay or gingivitis.

Here is a video about how dry mouth can affect your oral health.

How To Get Rid Of Bad Breath

When brushing, flossing, and tongue scraping aren’t enough to keep your breath minty fresh, it’s critical to discover the underlying cause so that you can address it directly instead of only attacking a symptom. We encourage habitual mouth-breathers to try breathing through their noses more. We encourage anyone who smokes or chews tobacco to quit. If the problem is related to dry mouth, sugar-free gum helps to stimulate saliva production, and sipping water and using a humidifier can also help keep the moisture up.

When to See a Doctor?

Your dentist is your best resource for how to get rid of bad breath. If you struggle with chronic bad breath, known as halitosis, even after making changes to your home oral care routine, a dentist can diagnose any underlying conditions causing your bad breath and treat them at the source. Preventive dentistry, medication, and specialized products are useful tools in the fight against bad breath, and your dentist can guide you on the best path to making a good impression and keeping your oral health in check.