Causes and Treatments of Bad Breath


From poor oral hygiene to diet to medication, the causes and treatments of bad breath are wide and varied. Clinically known as halitosis, about one in four people are affected by bad breath at some point in their lives. We’ll be breaking them down to help give a wider understanding of the condition and how to treat it.

First, check if you have bad breath

The first step in tackling bad breath is knowing whether you have it in the first place. Residual smells from recently consumed food or drink which fade in a short space of time are different from a persistent, unpleasant smell. It can be difficult to judge whether you have bad breath for yourself, and people are often uncomfortable with telling others that it is a problem. Bearing this in mind, there are a few ways you can find out if you have bad breath:

  • Ask – If you are uneasy with asking another person about your breath, you can always ask either your dentist or your GP. Sometimes bad breath can be a sign of an underlying medical condition, so don’t let embarrassment prevent treatment.
  •  Test – A quick way to check your breath is to lick the inside of your wrist and smell it once the saliva dries. Remember to do this either before or a time after eating or drinking something odorous for accuracy.
  • Taste – If you have a foul taste in your mouth, then this may also be mirrored in your breath. If the taste does not dissipate with rinsing your mouth or cleaning your teeth, then your breath may also be affected.

The causes and treatments of bad breath

Once you’ve established whether you have bad breath or not, it’s time to look at the causes and treatments.

Cause – Smoking

Treatment – Bad breath and gum disease is one of smoking’s less serious side effects, but it can be a great motivator to finally quit the toxic habit. Further reading on quitting can be found via your GP or the NHS.

Cause – Diet

Treatment – Odorous foods such as onions and garlic can cause a lingering smell which good oral hygiene can combat. However, crash dieting and fasting can also lead to bad breath as the body breaks down fat. If you have recently undertaken a drastic change in diet, then bad breath could be a side effect.

Cause – Medication

Treatment – Some medication such as nitrates and chemotherapy can cause bad breath. If your bad breath is caused by medication, then you can either talk to your GP about alternative medication, or wait for the symptoms to clear up upon completion of the prescribed course of treatment.

Cause – Poor oral hygiene

Treatment – Not taking care of your dental routine can lead to cavities, gum disease, and of course, bad breath. For more on the best care for your mouth, see our How to Brush Your Teeth Correctly and A Guide to Daily Dental Care guides.

Cause – Medical conditions such as gastrointentinal conditions, dry mouth, diabetes, and nose, throat and lung infections

Treatment – If you have a good dental routine and no other reason to suffer from bad breath, then it may be the symptom of an underlying condition such as those listed above. Talk to your GP for further investigation and treatment.

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