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  • Writer's pictureDavid Sandoval

What Causes Bad Breath?

Updated: Jul 9, 2022

Oral Bacteria

Poor oral hygiene results in plaque bacteria being left behind on your teeth and gums. This bacteria produces foul smelling waste products that cause bad breath. This can lead to gingivitis, tooth decay, and cavities. To keep plaque bacteria to a minimum, brush your teeth for at least two minutes twice a day. Use a toothpaste that’s proven to fight cavities and plaque bacteria, like Crest® PRO-HEALTH® Advanced Toothpaste. Follow up with a good tongue brushing. Pay special attention to the back of your tongue, where most odor-causing bacteria are found. Flossing effectively also helps by removing food particles, and you can finish it off with a mouthwash that kills germs. Crest® PRO-HEALTH® Multi-Protection is an excellent option, since it kills 99% of the bacteria that cause bad breath, plaque and gingivitis.

Tobacco use

Smoking is a major cause of bad breath. If you smoke, this is just one of many reasons to quit. Your bad breath may be due to other causes, too, but tobacco use is a guarantee of bad breath. If you’re ready to quit, ask your doctor or dentist for advice and support.

Certain foods or drinks

Some of the things we eat and drink, like coffee and garlic,contribute to bad breath, but only temporarily. Once they are absorbed into the bloodstream, the smell is expelled through the breath, but the odors remain until the body processes the food. To cancel out that coffee and everything bagel breath, keep a travel-sized mouthwash handy in your bag, or a bottle of Crest® PRO-HEALTH® Multi-Protection Mouthwash in your desk drawer at the office.

Dry mouth

If your mouth is extremely dry, it’s because you’re not producing enough saliva to wash away excess food particles and bacteria, which can cause an unpleasant smell if they build up on the teeth. Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. Breathing through your mouth can also cause the saliva you produce to evaporate rapidly. That’s why many people who breath through their mouth when they sleep get a dry mouth and wake up with bad breath.

Postnasal Drip

If you have sinusitis, or inflammation of the sinuses, mucus can get caught in the back of your throat, which can cause postnasal drip. The mucus can collect bacteria, and to make matters worse, now you have postnasal drip bad breath. Often, drinking lots of water and taking a decongestant can help with sinusitis, but if you have severe symptoms or your symptoms have lasted longer than a few weeks, you should talk to your doctor.


If you’re having your wisdom teeth or other teeth removed, it’s possible that you may need to deal with bad breath, as well. When your teeth are extracted, bacteria can get inside your wounds and this is what causes halitosis. Your dentist may provide antibiotics to help, but if the infection persists and causes chronic bad breath for more than a few days, you may need to see your dentist to have the wound cleaned. Bacteria can also infect your gums when they’re not healthy or when they are compromised by other health issues or physical injury.

Medical Conditions

Certain conditions beyond your control can cause bad breath: sinus infections, tonsil stones, respiratory tract infections, chronic bronchitis, diabetes, gastrointestinal disturbances, or liver or kidney ailments are just some of the medical causes of bad breath. If you have chronic bad breath and your dentist rules out any oral health problems, see your doctor for an evaluation.

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