An Overview of Bad Mouth Odor

Bad mouth odor or halitosis is characterized by unpleasant odor from the mouth. Halitosis can either be a temporary or a chronic condition. According to Medical News Today (, halitosis is the third most common reason that people seek dental care after tooth decay and gum disease (more about gum disease bad breath).

Bad mouth odor is not the everyday “morning breath” that most people wake up with. Neither is halitosis the five-minute breath that you experience after eating the occasional spicy-heavy exotic meal or tuna sandwich.

Morning breath

True halitosis is a persistent odor that does not go away even after brushing, flossing or rinsing. Halitosis can be quite demoralizing, so much that people with the condition are reluctant even to mention it to their dentist.

However, if you’ve halitosis, you shouldn’t feel bad at all. According to American Dental Association (, at least 50 percent of adults have had halitosis in their lifetime. Also, the condition is fairly common, and thus, treatable.

In most cases, the paranoia stems from the social stigma that people place on those with the condition. You might be surprised to learn that some of the causes of bad mouth odor are simple and preventable. However, there’re some rare exceptions in which the condition may actually need medical attention, so knowing what causes bad mouth odor is vital to identify or separate the difference.

Causes of Bad Mouth Odor

Bad breath causes

Poor dental hygiene

According to NHS Choices (, poor oral hygiene is the leading cause of bad mouth odor.

If you do not brush or floss your teeth, bacteria can build up in your teeth and can produce unpleasant smelling gases.

Also, food particles can get lodged in between your dental cavities, and with time, they may decay resulting to smelly odor.

Food and drinks

Certain types of foods and drinks, especially, sulfur-rich and strong-flavored foods such as onions or garlic can result in bad mouth odors. However, the odor effect from foods is temporary, and can be avoided by not consuming such foods, or consuming them in moderation. Find out more here.


When it comes to bad mouth odor, smoking is a double-edged sword. First, the smoke itself can result in the foul smell. Finally, smoking results to drying out of saliva in the mouth, a condition known as Dry mouth, or xerostomia (

Presence of saliva in the mouth prevents tooth decay by neutralizing the acids produced by bacteria, limits bacterial growth and washes away food particles. Decreased saliva and dry mouth can result in halitosis.


Just like cigarettes, alcohol can similarly result in a dry mouth, and consequently, leading to bad mouth odor.

Medical conditions/infections

Bad mouth odor might also be caused by health conditions. For instance, diseases such as periodontal disease, gum infection, or tonsil stones can lead to bad mouth odor.

Also, poor fitting of dental appliances such as bridges and dentures can lead to bad mouth odor. In most cases, it’s as a result of food particles that are not properly cleansed from the appliances. Also, loose-fitting can contribute to sores and localized infections in the mouth, which can lead to bad breath.

Signs of bad mouth odor

Signs of Bad Breath

Many individuals with halitosis are oblivious to the condition. The intensity of the odor depends on the underlying cause of the condition. However, it’s generally simple to tell if you’ve bad breath. The most obvious sign or symptom is to notice the unpleasant smell from your mouth.

Other signs to look out for include;

  • A bad/ sour or change of taste in your mouth
  • Dry mouth
  • A coating on your tongue

Preventing halitosis

One of the effective methods of curing halitosis is by practicing good oral hygiene, which entails;

  1. Brushing teeth at least twice a day with best toothpastes for bad mouth odor.
  2. Brushing the tongue.
  3. Using dental floss regularly.
  4. Removing dentures at night and cleaning them thoroughly before placing them back in the mouth.

It’s also recommended that one should engage in a healthy lifestyle, and avoid common odor triggers such as cigarettes, alcohol, excess consumption of spicy and flavored foods.

Also, ensure that you keep your mouth moist by drinking plenty of water, and chewing sour-flavored mints to stimulate production of saliva. Try also chewing a gum regularly.

Finally, you should make a point of visiting your local dentist twice a year for oral checkups.

When to Seek Medical Care for Bad Mouth Odor

Dentist with toold

Most causes of bad mouth odor (apart from those from alcohol breath and those from the stomach) are as a result of poor oral hygiene and are rarely life-threatening. However, if practicing good oral hygiene does not eliminate the bad breath, it might signify a greater problem, and you should see a professional.

You should see a dentist if you’ve;

  • Persistent dry mouth
  • Pain when swallowing or chewing
  • Sores in the mouth
  • White spots on the tonsils

Also, those who have bad mouth odor and have just begun a new medication or dental surgery, they should similarly consult their healthcare provider.

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