Causes and Treatments for Bad Breath

Shot of a young man smelling his breath during his morning grooming routine at home

Research indicates that at least 25% of American adults experience bad breath. If you’re part of this group, you’ll know how distressing and irritating this can be. Also, while many unpleasant oral odors are temporary, some individuals suffer from chronic halitosis, the medical name for bad breath. Sometimes, persistent disagreeable whiffs from the mouth have serious roots. This article outlines possible causes of stinky breath and various bad breath treatments.

Potential Causes of Bad Breath

Bad breath can have wide-ranging causes, including poor dental hygiene, eating habits, smoking, and health conditions.

Poor Oral Hygiene

When you don’t follow good oral hygiene routines, food remnants and bacteria remain in your mouth. These food pieces feed bacteria, enabling them to multiply. In turn, specific bacteria — which usually live on the tongue or at the back of the throat — release stinky sulfur as they break down matter. On the breath, these sulfuric fumes smell similar to rotting eggs. Moreover, bad oral hygiene may lead to more serious gum diseases like gingivitis and periodontitis, which also result in bad breath.


Smoking often leaves a lingering stale smell on your breath, long after you’ve stubbed out your cigarette. However, it also dries out your mouth, which in itself can lead to unpleasant breath. Additionally, links exist between smoking and gum disease — another significant factor in smelly breath.

Eating Habits

Certain foods and drinks can change the smell of your breath, with odors becoming even more noticeable if you belch. Common culprits are onions, garlic, coffee, and canned tuna. However, foul smells don’t usually last for too long when food or drink are to blame. That said, some drinks, such as coffee and alcoholic beverages, can dry out your mouth, which can be a cause of bad breath.


Some oral medications can create unusual breath scents as the chemicals break down in the body. Furthermore, certain drugs can dry out your mouth.

Dry Mouth

As mentioned, a dry mouth is a significant contributor to unpleasant breath. Various factors can cause your mouth to be dry, including smoking, some foods and drinks, medications, certain health conditions, and dehydration.

Medical Conditions

Oral thrush, or candidiasis, is a relatively common fungal infection in the mouth. Smoking, health conditions, denture use, poor oral cleanliness, and a weakened immune system are among the many reasons for developing thrush. Such fungus in the mouth typically results in smelly breath.

Less commonly, other medical conditions may lead to bad breath. Examples include diabetes, kidney complaints, liver conditions, mouth cancer, post-nasal drip, throat infections, respiratory infections, and acid reflux.

Treatments for Bad Breath

The treatment for bad breath depends on the cause. Sometimes, lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking, avoiding pungent foods, drinking more water, and reducing alcohol intake, can eliminate breath whiffs. When medications cause odors, you may need to wait until you’re no longer taking them to notice a positive change. However, improving oral hygiene is a major way of reducing bad breath. If you’ve developed gum disease, you’ll typically need dental treatments before your breath issues resolve.

Oral Hygiene

Regular brushing is essential for removing odor-causing bacteria from the mouth, making sure you brush your tongue as well as your teeth. Flossing is also vital to remove debris and bacteria from between the teeth. Using mouthwash also helps kill the bacteria that cause bad breath. Your periodontist may recommend a prescription mouthwash. You may also need professional tooth cleaning, or scaling and root planing. Where gum disease is present, you’ll need more intensive treatments.

Gum Disease Treatments

Various treatments exist for gum disease, which improves your overall oral health as well as solving bad breath problems. Laser periodontal therapy, or LANAP, is a non-surgical procedure that uses a laser probe to destroy bacteria and diseased gum tissue without harming healthy tissue or tooth enamel. In Long Island, NY, Dr. Scharf combines laser therapy with perioscopy, which provides magnified images of the mouth for more thorough and effective cleansing.

LANAP might also be accompanied by periodontal pocket reduction surgery, which reduces enlarged pockets in the gums and around the teeth. In addition to minimizing the available area for bacteria to thrive, this procedure reduces the risk of bone loss, lowers the chances of tooth loss, and makes it easier to maintain good oral hygiene habits. Pertinently, it can also solve problems with bad breath.

Next Steps to Resolve Bad Breath

It’s crucial that you take good care of your dental and oral health and watch out for signs and symptoms of gum disease, including halitosis. Regular dental checkups are vital for spotting and resolving problems as early as possible.

While occasional bad breath isn’t usually cause for concern, persistent smells may indicate a more serious issue, either in your mouth or with your overall health. If you suffer from bad breath, have it checked out. Your dentist will advise you how to rid yourself of problematic breath smells. Make an appointment with one of Long Island’s leading periodontists, Dr. Scharf, today.