Causes of Halitosis or Bad Breath

Posted on : 18-06-2014 | By : Haddon Suttner | In : Oral Health, Preventive Dentistry

Tags: ,


Facebook  Share on Facebook   |  

Bad breath, medically called halitosis, can result from poor dental health habits and may be a sign of other health problems.Halitosis (bad breath) is mostly caused by sulphur-producing bacteria that normally live on the surface of the tongue and in the throat.

Causes of Halitosis or Bad Breath

Poor Oral Hygiene

Poor oral hygiene is the most common cause of bad breath.Bacteria that build up on teeth, tongue and gums can cause plaque (the soft, white deposit that forms on the surface of the teeth), gum disease and tooth decay.The bacteria combine with saliva to break down food particles and proteins which releases an unpleasant smelling gas.The bacteria can also live in the rough surface of your tongue. Therefore, as well as brushing your teeth, cleaning your tongue can also help control bad breath.Having regular dental check-ups will ensure any oral hygiene problems are picked up and treated early. Your dentist can advise on how often you need a check-up.

Food and Drink

Eating strongly flavoured foods, such as garlic, onions and spices, is likely to make your breath smell. Strong-smelling drinks, such as coffee and alcohol, can also cause bad breath.This type of bad breath is usually temporary and can be easily avoided by not eating or drinking these types of food and drink. Good dental hygiene will also help.


Smoking is another cause of bad breath. As well as making your breath smell, smoking also causes staining and loss of taste and irritates your gums. Smoking also increases your risk of developing gum disease which is another cause of bad breath. Stopping smoking will lower the risk of gum disease and help prevent bad breath.

Crash Dieting

Crash dieting, fasting and low-carbohydrate diets can also cause bad breath. These cause the body to break down fat, which produces chemicals called ketones that can be smelt on your breath.


Some types of medication can cause bad breath. Medicines associated with bad breath include:

nitrates – which are sometimes used to treat angina
some chemotherapy medication
phenothiazines (tranquilisers)

If the medication you are taking is causing bad breath, your GP may be able to recommend an alternative.

Medical Conditions

Bad breath is sometimes caused by a medical condition, although this is rare.
Dry mouth, also known as xerostomia, is a condition that affects the flow of saliva. This can cause bacteria to build up in the mouth, leading to bad breath.
Dry mouth can be caused by salivary gland problems or continually breathing through your mouth instead of your nose.Other medical conditions that can cause bad breath include:

lung, throat or nose infections, such as bronchiectasis
gastritis – inflammation of the lining of the stomach and food reflux

Respiratory Tract Infections

Tooth and gum infections are recognized sources of bad breath. But so are bronchitis, sinusitis, and even a cold. RTIs break down tissue, starting a flow of cells and mucus that feed bacteria that create foul odors.

Skipping breakfast

Besides the well-established advantages to body and mind of having a good breakfast, it helps quell morning breath by stimulating saliva production and scrubbing bacteria from the tongue. (But lay off the sardine-onion sandwich.)


Foods high in protein or dairy products generate large amounts of amino acids, which are fodder for bacteria. A diet low in carbs burns stored fat, creating toxic-smelling ketones. And last year, researchers linked bad breath with obesity, although the basis is unclear.

Mouth Breathing

Any condition that dries the tissues of the mouth, preventing saliva from washing away bacteria, encourages bad breath. Candidates include sleep apnea, snoring, and asthma.

Ongoing Illnesses

A potent breath can signal particular diseases. Kidney failure produces a fishy smell and uncontrolled diabetes generates fruity fumes, for instance.


Heavy alcohol consumption also can dry out the mouth.
Medications. Saliva rinses away bacteria that foul the breath, and many drugs, among them antidepressants, diuretics, and even aspirin, can dry the mouth.


The stink-creating kind mostly hang out on the tongue, happily churning out gases as they munch on food particles and substances broken down from saliva, and multiply at night, when the salivary glands slow down (hence morning breath). Some people harbor more species of malodorous bacteria than others do, which may be why certain individuals are especially halitosis-prone. This month, a study in the Journal of Medical Microbiology suggests that H. pylori, the same bug that is often responsible for stomach ulcers, can cause bad breath and gum disease if it finds a home in the mouth.

You may call Dr. Haddon Suttner for any type of dental problem on 02 9365 6197  or visit our the website Dentist Bondi.

Write a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.