a blue toothbrush with toothpaste on it

Causes of Halitosis and Treatments to Get Rid of Bad Breath

Chronic bad breath, also known as halitosis, can be a very embarrassing problem that many people face.

Halitosis can be caused by a lot of things, from diet and lifestyle to dental hygiene and other factors, such as underlying health conditions.

While halitosis is a chronic condition, there are treatments available to help based on the cause of the bad breath.

So here’s a look at what causes halitosis along with how to get rid of bad breath for good.

What Is Bad Breath/Halitosis?

Halitosis is chronic bad breath that cannot be cured with a mint or a piece of gum. While minty flavours can help mask halitosis, these often do not treat the underlying cause of this chronic bad breath condition.

Since there are many possible causes of halitosis, it’s important to figure out what exactly is causing your bad breath so you can find the right halitosis treatment to get rid of bad breath for good.

What Are The Causes?

There are many causes of bad breath, most of which start in the mouth.

Possible halitosis causes include:


When food particles break down in and around your teeth, the increase in bacteria can cause a bad odor in your mouth.

Eating certain foods, such as onions, garlic, and spices, can cause bad breath even after digestion as they enter your bloodstream and are carried to your lungs.


Along with smelling like cigarette smoke, smoking also causes bad breath. Those who smoke or use chewing tobacco are more likely to have gum disease, which is another leading cause of bad breath.

Poor Oral Hygiene

When you don’t floss and brush daily, food particles stuck in your teeth will lead to odor-causing bacteria growth, also known as plaque. And when left to build up on the teeth, plaque will irritate your gums and form plaque-filled pockets between your gums and teeth (aka periodontitis).

Cavities can also cause bad breath. And your tongue can trap odor-causing bacteria, which is why brushing your tongue is just as important as brushing your teeth.

Also, dentures that aren’t cleaned regularly or don’t fit properly can trap food particles and bacteria in your mouth.

Dry Mouth

Since saliva helps clean your mouth and remove particles that lead to bad breath, having a dry mouth can cause bad breath. We get dry mouths when we sleep—hence morning breath. But there are also chronic dry mouth conditions caused by a problem with salivary glands and some diseases.


Some medications can cause dry mouth, which leads to bad breath. And other medications release chemicals when broken down in the body, which can be carried to your lungs and in your breath.


Infections caused by tooth decay, gum disease (gingivitis), mouth sores, or surgical wounds after oral surgery—such as tooth extraction—can all cause bad-smelling breath.

Mouth, Nose, and Throat Conditions

Chronic inflammation and infections in the sinuses, nose, or throat that lead to postnasal drip can cause bad breath. As can small stones that form in the tonsils and are covered with odor-producing bacteria.

Young children may also experience bad breath if they have foreign bodies, such as a piece of food, lodged in their nostrils.

Other Factors

Diseases can also cause bad breath, such as:

  • Some cancers
  • Metabolic disorders
  • Chronic reflux of stomach acids
  • Diabetes
  • Liver disease
  • Kidney disease


If poor oral hygiene is the cause of your bad breath, the leading bad breath cure is to develop good dental hygiene habits, which include:

  • Flossing daily
  • Brushing at least twice a day for two to three minutes with a fluoride toothpaste; and,
  • Visiting your dentist regularly (at least twice a year) for checkups and cleanings.

Depending on the cause of the bad breath, further treatments may be necessary. Your dentist may refer you to your family doctor if they believe an underlying health condition is the cause of your halitosis.

For halitosis causes related to oral health, your dentist may recommend one of the following halitosis treatment methods:

Mouth Rinse and Toothpaste

Your dentist might recommend a mouth rinse designed to kill bacteria buildup (plaque) on your teeth along with an antibacterial toothpaste to help kill this odor-causing bacteria.

Professional Dental Cleaning

Often, the only way to remove the odor-causing plaque buildup, especially in pockets between your teeth and gums, is with a thorough dental cleaning.

Dental Restorations

If you have any tooth restorations that are broken and trapping bacteria, your dentist might recommend replacing these. And if you have any cavities or broken teeth, your dentist will fix these to prevent further bacteria growth and decay.

Referral to a Periodontist

If you have gum disease (periodontitis) and your gums are pulling away from your teeth, causing deep bacteria-filled pockets in your gums, your dentist may refer you to a gum specialist (periodontist) to repair the gum tissue.

Home Remedies

The following remedies for bad breath can be completed at home:

  • Brush your teeth after eating with a fluoride toothpaste that may also have antibacterial properties.
  • Floss your teeth at least once a day to remove food particles and plaque from between your teeth.
  • Brush your tongue gently when brushing your teeth (your toothbrush may even have a built-in tongue cleaner). Or use a tongue scraper if you have a coated tongue from an overgrowth of bacteria.
  • Get a new toothbrush regularly, about every three to four months, or when it gets frayed. And opt for a soft-bristled toothbrush.
  • Clean your bridge, dentures, or dental appliances (such as retainers and mouth guards) at least once a day as directed by your dentist, and each time you put these in your mouth.
  • Avoid dry mouth and keep your mouth moist by drinking plenty of water, chewing sugarless gum (preferably cinnamon-flavored with Cinnamic Aldehyde), and avoiding tobacco, alcohol, and soft drinks. For chronic dry mouth, your dentist might prescribe an oral medication that stimulates saliva production, or an artificial saliva preparation.
  • Avoid eating foods that cause bad breath, such as onions, garlic, and sugary foods. Replace sugary foods with healthy, low-sugar foods, such as fruit and yogurt.

When to See a Dentist

If you continue to suffer from bad breath, even after you make lifestyle changes and improvements to your oral hygiene habits, it’s time to visit your dentist. Your dentist can help you find the underlying cause of the halitosis and refer you to a specialist or physician.

Bad breath can be the result of many causes, including oral health conditions and underlying health conditions. So addressing your bad breath will not only help reduce anxiety and embarrassment, but it can also help improve your overall health.