Everything You Need To Know About Bad Breath: Avoid It, Treat It, Beat It

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Bad breath kills – it kills romance, business deals, collaboration and self-confidence. It may be one of the most egregious social predicaments we can experience. And the worst thing about bad breath? It’s a frequent, seemingly unavoidable experience for a lot of people.

Whether it’s a workplace or a date, bad breath is never convenient. It can compromise productivity and self-esteem, and many individuals never take steps to address it.

Bad breath is a lose-lose situation. That’s why we’ve taken the time to address everything you’ll ever need to know about bad breath – what it is, where it comes from and you can stop it in its tracks.

What causes halitosis? Why you might have bad breath

The first step to eliminating bad breath is to understand what causes it. Bad breath is a very common medical condition also known as halitosis. Many contributing factors can cause bad breath – food you eat, your oral hygiene routine, even other medical conditions like sinus infections and digestive issues.

Here is a brief explanation of the most common causes of bad breath:


Most halitosis can be linked to the diet. The food you eat has a direct impact on your mouth and breath. This impact can be immediate if you’re eating flavorful foods with strong smells like onions and garlic. Your mouth will emit these same odors.

However, your diet can also lead to halitosis in more subtle ways. Even if your food is mild in taste, the digestion process (which begins in the mouth as saliva starts to break down food) can also produce a foul odor. 

Finally, bad breath is a result of food lingering in the mouth when not properly removed. Tiny food particles often remain in the mouth after a meal, giving bad bacteria – called plaque – a source of energy. As bacteria builds in the mouth throughout the day, in between brushing and flossing, your breath has the potential to develop into halitosis.

Poor Hygiene

After your diet, the way you clean your teeth is also a key factor that can lead to halitosis. By brushing twice a day and flossing at least once a day, you can fortify your oral hygiene.

By taking great care of your teeth, you are fighting odor-producing bacteria and removing food debris from your mouth. This debris is the most likely source of your bad breath. If you’re serious about stopping bad breath in its tracks, brush after every meal and use mouthwash regularly.

Dry Mouth

Did you know that the most common time to experience halitosis is right when you wake up? This experience is called morning breath. When you sleep, you are more prone to the medical occurrence of xerostomia (zeer–o-STOE-me-uh) or dry mouth. 

The mouth should be constantly moistened by saliva. If your saliva production decreases, the mouth is left dry, which creates an environment for bad bacteria to grow. Saliva is the body’s natural mouthwash. It has components that fight bacteria, remove food debris and kill germs.


Whatever you consume can cause your mouth to produce an odor. This includes cigarettes, cigars, vapes and other items that are smoked. For most people, this is some sort of tobacco product. 

Tobacco has a strong taste and smell, which will remain on your clothes as you smoke and fill your mouth. Any tobacco product, smoked or chewed, will create a lasting odor in your mouth until it is thoroughly rinsed away.

Medical conditions

A wide variety of medical conditions, infections and diseases can cause halitosis. Many nose, throat and mouth infections will create nasty odors in the mouth as your body tries to fight off the illness and mucus starts to build up in your sinuses. Additionally, many digestive complications and conditions can cause gases and acids to enter the mouth from the stomach and emit foul smells.

It is important to note that this is not an exhaustive list, but one that merely scratches the surface of the most common causes of bad breath. For a complete understanding of what is causing your bad breath, our definitive guide to the causes of halitosis can help you avoid specific foods and kick unhealthy oral hygiene habits to the curb.

Preventing bad breath on a daily basis

Prevention is the best policy when it comes to bad breath. We will go over a number of ways to treat halitosis, for those moments when it unfortunately arises. If you can stop your bad breath from ever happening in the first place, you will not have to find yourself reeling from moments of embarrassment.

Follow these five preventive measures to relieve yourself of the social anxiety that bad breath can cause.

Brush your teeth twice a day

Good oral hygiene is the best form of prevention against halitosis. Any effective oral hygiene routine starts with brushing twice a day – once in the morning and once before bed.

By brushing in the morning, you give your mouth a fresh start by removing any bacteria that may have built up throughout the night.

Brushing at night is when most of the impact is made. You have been eating and drinking consistently throughout the day, and before bed it is time to remove food debris.

Floss once a day

Brushing is not enough when it comes to your oral hygiene. In fact, flossing makes up about 40% of the teeth cleaning process. The remaining food particles in your mouth are found in the hard-to-reach places between the teeth.

Flossing is a necessary step to preventing bad breath, because it does what your toothbrush can’t. It removes the odor-producing nastiness found in between your teeth and in the pockets created at the surface of your gums.

Rinse your mouth with mouthwash

Another important tool in your oral hygiene arsenal is mouthwash. We recommend you rinse with mouthwash twice a day after brushing your teeth. Mouthwash is the great safety net that helps to eliminate food particles, germs or bacteria that were not removed when brushing.

Stay hydrated

Proper hydration is one easy way to avoid halitosis. The best way to hydrate is simple: drink water throughout the day. Water can rinse your mouth and remove food particles and bacteria. It will also increase your saliva production, which is key to naturally fighting bad breath.

See your dentist regularly

Your dentist can help you stay on track with your oral hygiene by checking for cavities, removing hardened plaque and addressing other dental concerns. Your dentist will also be able to treat any tooth decay or gum disease, which often creates foul smells in the mouth. 

Preventing bad breath before it starts is the only surefire way to avoid the social awkwardness that comes with halitosis. Check out the most effective ways to prevent bad breath for even more ways you can treat your breath before it becomes halitosis.

How to treat bad breath if it occurs

No matter how hard we can try to prevent bad breath, it can pop up unexpectedly from time to time.

Luckily, there are discrete strategies you can use whenever you find yourself facing halitosis.

1. Brush your teeth after meals

Brushing your teeth is probably the best way to treat bad breath in the moment. Brushing your teeth will relieve odors by removing food debris from your teeth, tongue and gums; the scent of the toothpaste will replace the bad smells with a refreshing aroma.

2. Mouthwash

If brushing is not an option, mouthwash is a great alternative treatment. Mouthwash also fights bad breath at its source, killing germs and bacteria. In moments of distress, mouthwash may be the best option because of how quick and discrete it can be. 

Unlike brushing (which should take about 2-3 minutes), most mouthwashes require a mere 30 seconds of swishing.

3. Sugar-free mints and gum

Mints and gum are incredibly handy. The powerful, refreshing smells of these items can mask most cases of bad breath. However, make sure your mint or gum is sugar-free. The sugar in these items can actually make your breath worse, by feeding the bacteria that is causing the odors.

4. Eat an apple, carrot or celery stick

As crazy as it might sound, these three foods are excellent treatments for bad breath. All three are crisp foods that require a lot of saliva to digest. As a result, increased saliva production equals a decrease in bacteria.

The crispness of an apple, carrot or piece of celery will also act as a natural toothbrush as you chew them. By eating these foods, you will actually be removing the debris that was previously stuck in your teeth.

5. Drink water

The old and faithful way of treating your bad breath is by drinking water. If everything else fails because you do not have access to those remedies, grab a bottle of water and drink away. The water you drink can be an agent that suppresses odors, by dislodging food debris and bacteria from your mouth. 

For further tips and tricks on treating your bad breath in the heat of the moment, our guide to stopping bad breath further breaks down these methods to limit the effect halitosis can have.

Special considerations about bad breath during a global pandemic

“Mask mouth” is the term used by many in the medical profession to describe the ill effects that wearing a mask for prolonged periods of time can cause. Halitosis, dry mouth, cavities and even gum disease have been linked to the practice of wearing a face covering for several hours a day.

Although masks are effective in slowing the spread of viruses, they can also change the way most people breathe. The limited airflow that masks force upon one’s respiratory system lead to a number of new breathing concerns. Many people find themselves breathing through their mouths a lot more when wearing a mask, which can lead to dry mouth. Bacteria and germs are trapped by the mask when exhaled, and are quickly re-inhaled where they will rest and grow in the mouth.

Learn what you can do to mitigate the adverse oral health effects of wearing a mask with our complete guide to addressing mask mouth.

More than a quarter of the human race is affected by bad breath, but you don’t have to be. If you’re ready to have a dental professional help you address halitosis, schedule your visit to The Steele Creek Dentist today. Our in-house dental providers are equipped to eliminate your bad breath and treat any of your other dental concerns. Schedule an appointment today by calling (704) 800-0252.