Home Oral/Dental Care Bad breath: causes, prevention and treatment

Bad breath: causes, prevention and treatment

by Janet Johnson
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What is bad breath?

Bad breath is common among healthy people, and it is especially noticeable when you wake up in the morning. People with bad breath may be completely unaware that they have the problem until a friend embarrassingly tells them. In fact, bad breath can become a “chronic” problem that not only affects your personal and social life, but can also damage your self-esteem and self-confidence.

Since there are very few studies on the problem of bad breath, it is unknown how many people suffer from bad breath. However, a large study conducted in Japan showed that 6 to 23% of 2,672 respondents suffered from bad breath.

There are two sources of bad breath: one is inside the mouth and the other is outside the mouth. Most common bad breath comes from inside the mouth. A significant percentage of patients who go to the dentist complain of bad breath and are actively aware of their bad breath and fearful of their social life.

Image: Kind courtesy – karlyukav/www.freepik.com

What causes bad breath?

There are many causes of bad breath, which are explained under the following three categories:

1. Bad lifestyle habits

Poor oral hygiene

Not to develop the habit of cleaning your teeth after meals. If the food residue of each meal is left in the mouth, if it is not removed immediately, the protein will be decomposed by bacteria, and bad odor will be formed. It is worth mentioning that the surface of the tongue is quite rough and the tongue papillae are often keratinized and uneven, forming a hiding place for a mixture of bacteria, food debris and epithelial cells. The tongue is also a source of bad breath, and should be brushed along with your teeth.

Insufficient saliva flow makes the mouth dry

Since saliva has the function of cleaning the mouth, if the saliva flow is insufficient, the necrotic cells in the mouth will accumulate in the tongue, flesh of the teeth and cheeks and produce decay, so patients with dry mouth often have bad breath. If saliva secretion is low at night, it will indeed cause an unpleasant taste the next day, which can be improved by brushing your teeth in the morning.

Poor denture hygiene

If you don’t have the habit of cleaning your dentures or still wearing them when you sleep, it will cause bad breath.


Smoking emits a nicotine odor.

2. Bad breath caused by localized lesions of the mouth and sinuses

Bad breath can occur when there is a bacterial infection in the mouth, such as periodontal disease, oral ulcers, inflammation around the wisdom teeth and so on. If you are afraid to brush your teeth because of pain in the oral mucous or bleeding gums, the bad breath will be even worse. Other pathologies in the nose, sinuses, and throat, such as chronic purulent sinusitis, inflammation and purulence of the tonsils, and infection of malignant tumors in the mouth and nose, can create an unpleasant odor.

3. Bad breath caused by other diseases outside the oral cavity

This is a minority of cases, such as pulmonary abscess, lower respiratory tract infection, liver failure, kidney failure, ketoacidosis in diabetes, etc., all have different special odors, which can even be used as a basis for diagnosing patients. Other conditions such as head and neck radiotherapy and salivary gland diseases can also be associated with bad breath.

How to prevent bad breath?

  1. In most cases, bad breath can be prevented with daily oral hygiene and good mouth care:
    • Use fluoride-containing toothpaste to clean your teeth in the morning and evening and after eating, and clean your teeth properly at the same time.
    • Clean your dentures properly and remove them before going to bed.
    • Get regular oral exams.
  2. Quit smoking. Instead, try chewing sugar-free gum. Since chewing gum can stimulate the salivary glands to secrete saliva, and saliva can neutralize the acids in the mouth, thus reducing the chance of tooth decay.
  3. Drink plenty of water throughout the day to keep your mouth moist.
  4. Avoid eating foods with strong flavors.

How to treat bad breath?

Poor oral hygiene and periodontal disease are the most common causes of bad breath in the oral cavity. In order to effectively eliminate the cause of bad breath or disease, you can ask your dentist to do a careful oral evaluation. If it is caused by periodontal disease, you should work with your dentist to learn the correct way to brush your teeth and thoroughly treat periodontal disease. If it is not caused by oral cavity, then consult an ear, nose and throat or internal medicine doctor to find out the source of the disease and cure it together. Generally, commercially available chewing gum and sprays can temporarily cover up the odor, but cannot cure the root cause of the problem. If you have bad breath or suspected bad breath, we will do our best to provide you with a thorough oral examination and treatment.

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