What Causes Halitosis (Bad Breath)?

March 14, 2021

No one enjoys having bad breath or smelling bad breath on someone else, but unfortunately, bad breath is an experience everyone will go through at least once in their life. When severe, bad breath can be quite a detriment to an individual's personal and professional life. When bad breath lingers, it is referred to as halitosis. While there are an abundant number of underlying causes for halitosis, if assistance from a dentist is sought there are many solutions to help cure the foul smell.

When trying to treat bad breath, however, it is ideal to know what caused it in the first place, so the cause can be treated, rather than just the symptom. Get the details on the major causes of bad breath now.


Countless foods can leave a foul odor in the mouth. The most iconic of these are onions and garlic, though some would argue there are far worse ones out there. Even drinking certain beverages, such as alcoholic beverages or coffee can contribute to bad oral odor as such drinks can increase acidity in the body leading to dehydration and dry mouth, which is one of the leading causes of halitosis. These odors can last for several days or at least until the food or drink has processed its way through the individual's body.

Get more information on the various causes of bad breath now.


Certain kinds of medications, such as sedatives, antidepressants, antihistamines, anorexiants, and antipsychotics can all play a major role in the development of halitosis. While all medications are designed to assist the body in healing and recovery, each medication does come with potential side effects, one of which is, unfortunately, bad breath. Sometimes this side effect is direct, but in many cases, the medication can trigger dehydration, which then causes dry mouth, and finally, results in bad breath. Thankfully, for this cause, patients can discuss with their doctor about switching to a new medication that might not cause this side effect for them.

Continue reading to learn more about the causes associated with the development of lasting bad breath now.

Tongue Piercings

Tongue piercings contribute to halitosis as they promote the growth of more bacteria on the tongue, which is where sulfur compounds that cause bad breath thrive. Evidence also shows plaque can easily build-up and flourish on the tongue ring itself. Recent research has gone to show that not only do tongue piercings contribute to halitosis, but there have also been higher cases of Candida albicans (yeast) infections in those with tongue piercings. It is vitally important with tongue piercings to ensure their piercing cleaned often to remove any trapped food and debris that may lead to further mouth odor.

Learn more about what can cause halitosis now.

Xerostomia (Dry Mouth)

One common trend represented in each cause of bad breath discussed so far is the contribution of dry mouth. Medically called xerostomia, dry mouth is the feeling often described as cottonmouth. When the mouth becomes dry, it can also feel rough, which is similar to having a cotton ball in the mouth. Mouthrinses are typically the first treatment for dry mouth many individuals opt to use. There are countless good options available, but individuals should avoid anything alcohol-based, as this can lead to further dry mouth and halitosis.

Uncover details on the next potential cause of bad breath now.


Dentures can boost the cultivation of bacterial colonies, yeast infections, and even mold, in the mouth of those who wear them. Once this kind of growth in the mouth begins, it can spread quickly and makes each day a more difficult fight against bad breath. Thankfully, there are quite a few easy, natural, and cost-effective ways to keep dentures clean and stave off bad breath. One of the best is using a hydrogen peroxide rinse, which can assist in killing germs. Hydrogen peroxide is also the main ingredient in many name brand denture cleaners. It is a good idea for individuals to clean their dentures on a regular basis so they can maintain both their oral health, but the longevity of their dentures as well.

Keep reading to discover more causes of bad breath now.

Sinus Problems

Getting sick can often be a cause of bad breath, particularly when the illness involves an individual's throat or sinuses. Congestion that comes in the form of nasal mucus or nasal drip can begin to create a consistent breeding ground for bacteria and germ growth, which can lead to halitosis. The best solution to combat the spread of further growth is for individuals to practice good oral hygiene even when, especially when, they are not feeling up to it. And once the illness has been cured, it is important to get a new toothbrush and not brush with the old one.

Learn more about what causes halitosis now.

Acid Reflux

Research clearly indicates individuals who suffer from chronic acid reflux typically experience more cases of bad breath than those who do not. This is because the onset of acid reflux can cause stomach acids and gastrointestinal bacteria to enter the throat and mouth. The good news is that most of the time, all individuals need to do to get rid of halitosis in these cases is to rinse their mouth. However, there have been noted instances in which gut bacteria can infect the mouth cavity, and in some cases, bacteria, such as H. pylori (a bacteria that lives and grows in the intestinal tract) can create more complex medical problems.

Read more about the different causes of halitosis now.


Tobacco use, particularly cigarette smoking, can cause chronic ‘smoker's breath,' which is a foul odor on the breath that smells of the tobacco and chemicals from the cigarettes the individual was smoking. Although the smell is quite unpleasant, the long-term effects of smoker's breath are much worse than just the smell. Research has found the chemicals and compounds released from smoking, particularly when individuals smoke a lot, can lead to dry mouth and a reduction in the salivary flow, and as many will be able to guess, can lead to a buildup of bad bacteria, resulting in prolonged bad breath.

Discover additional causes of bad breath now.

Poor Oral Hygiene

The number one cause of chronic halitosis is poor oral hygiene. Bad brushing and flossing habits leave food residue in the mouth, which contributes to plaque build-up. As many will know, the plaque buildup is the culprit behind bad breath in these instances. Bacteria feed on food sugars and plaque expels sulfuric smelling components and enough bacteria buildup leads to cavities and even periodontal disease if left untreated. Periodontal disease can contribute to more bacteria and is a cyclical problem that leads to fouler smelling breath.

Get more details about the different causes behind the development of chronic bad breath now.

Health Problems

As discussed previously, chronic acid reflux can result in bad breath. However, there are quite a few other health conditions out there that can also result in cases of halitosis. These conditions include liver or kidney disorders and diabetes. As the natural balance of an individual's body is destabilized from the illness they have, it becomes a breeding ground for the growth and spread of bacteria and germs that can lead to halitosis. Certain medical issues can even release nasty odors through the lungs, which can then lead to the mouth and trigger bad breath. In many cases, dry mouth is behind why halitosis occurs due to an underlying medical condition, which is why individuals may wish to see a doctor about dry mouth and halitosis occurring together.

MORE FROM HealthPrep