Mothball Breath: Causes and Treatment


Bad breath or rather a halitosis is one of the hygiene issues that many people around the globe worry about from time to time. Halitosis is caused by a gamut of factors, including underlying health conditions, dietary choices, or even poor oral health. Additionally, depending on the cause of the bad breath, halitosis might manifest itself in a variety of ways. One of the common manifestations of halitosis is mothball breath.

What is Mothball?


Before we even define the term mothball breath, it`s imperative that we have a rudimentary understanding of the term mothball. Mothball refers to small, white ball containing active chemical ingredients with a strong and pungent smell that keeps pesticides from clothing. The common active ingredient in mothball includes naphthalene or paradichlorobenzene.

Mothball Breath

Mothball breath

Consequently, if you have mothball breath, it means that you have a breath reminiscent of the mothball pesticide. In most cases, this kind of breath is characterized by an overpowering musty, benzene-like odor.

Interestingly, mothball breath is unique in its development; it can either develop gradually over a period of weeks or may suddenly appear within the space of days. Severe cases of mothball breath are quite embarrassing due to the extremely foul odor and may require rapid treatment.

Unlike other instances of bad breath, which have obvious cures, mothball breath is a unique instance since it`s manifestation may stem from an array of causes. Therefore, to comprehensively address the mothball issue, it`s prudent that we first look at the potential causes.

Causes of Mothball Breath

Sinusitis and Mothball breath

As stated above, there`s no single cause of mothball breath; instead, the breath is caused by a variety of issues. While some of the cause have an oral origin, others might be because of underlying health conditions or dietary choices.

Poor Oral Hygiene

Poor dental hygiene is an obvious cause of mothball breath. See, by failing to brush and floss your mouth properly, you are creating a haven for the odor-causing bacteria.

Sulfur-causing bacteria, in particular, thrive on the food parties lodged between your teeth and the dead mouth cells. As these bacteria digest these particles, they produce volatile Sulphur compounds (VCCs), which are responsible for the mothball smell.

Therefore, poor oral hygiene, and it`s associated dental problems such as tooth decay is one of the primary cause of mothball breath. Remember that bacteria rapidly replicate under such condition, and in doing so, it increases the volume of VSCs produced.


In case you have a sinus infection, post nasal drip or an allergy, your body is bound to produce excess mucus.  According to Fox News Health, as the body struggles to break down the mucus, it produces a certain bacterium that feeds on the proteins in the mucus. Inadvertently, the breakdown process results in the production of a chemical substance known as skatole.

According to the International Journal of Oral Science, skatole, a type of diamine, resembles a mothball and a has a scent reminiscent of mothball.

Therefore, if you are experiencing a mothball smell, you might have a condition that triggers excess production of mucus in the mouth or a condition that results to mucus running down your throat, also known as post nasal drip.

Medical Disorders

Halitosis alone can be evidence of an underlying health/medical condition. There`s compelling evidence suggesting that some of the medical disorders can result in the manifestation of halitosis; mothball breath included.

Some of the medical conditions include;

  • Liver disease
  • Kidney infection
  • Chronic bronchitis
  • Diabetes
  • Lactose intolerance


Medications have their share of side effects. According to TheraBreath, some of the medication that you have been using for years may well be the reason behind your mothball breath. Yes, using certain drugs can result in bad breath and contribute to taste disorders.

For instance, antidepressants are associated with dry mouth, which contributes to bad breath. Similarly, medications used to treat hypertension may result in breath akin to mothballs.

Mothball Breath Treatment

Dental Hygenie and bad brath

As you can see from above, mothball breath caused by a myriad of issues. As it follows, getting rid of this breath is not always easy. However, it does not mean that it`s impossible.

Here are some of the most effective treatment solutions for correcting the mothball breath.

  • Proper Dental Hygiene

Brushing and dental flossing might sound cliché, but it`s among the basic steps of attaining a mothball-free mouth. Ensure that you regularly brush and floss your teeth at least twice a day. Also, ensure that you invest in a tongue scarper.

Finally, ensure that you use an effective anti-bacterial mouth rinse to fight the bacteria load in your mouth. Remember that toothpaste and deodorizing agents simply clean the teeth, remove food particles and mask the smell but do not kill the oral bacteria. To kill the oral germs, make a point of investing in an antibacterial mouth rinse.

It`s also equally important that you take care of your dental dentures such as braces. This is to avoid localized infections on loose-fitted dentures or clinging to particles on the braces.

  • Consider your Diet and Drink more Fluids

Your diet plays an important role in determining our breath. If you start experiencing foul mothball smell after consuming certain foods, you might as well consider changing the diet. Some of the common culprits that are responsible for the foul smell include spicy foods such as garlic and onions.

Similarly, you need to add more fluid intake on your daily portion. Fluids, especially water is vital for flushing out odor-causing bacteria in the mouth. Water is also crucial for moistening the mouth and triggering the production of saliva, which happens to the mouth`s natural cleanser.

  • Visit your Dentist

If all the above procedures fail, it`s time to visit your doctor. Remember as we stated above, halitosis might be a sign of greater underlying health conditions. Some of these conditions are beyond our reach and can only be determined and treated by a professional. In fact, visiting a doctor is the best way to get rid of bad breath not only for humans, but also for cats.

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