Banishing Bad Breath: The Ultimate Guide

Posted by Dr. John Paul Gallardo, DDS, PA
What Causes Bad Breath?
There are a few ways you can mask or treat bad breath at home.

Halitosis, or bad breath, is a common issue that affects people of all ages. It can be embarrassing and socially isolating, but it is not always a sign of poor dental hygiene. Understanding the causes of bad breath and how to prevent it can help you maintain fresh breath and a healthy mouth.

What Causes Bad Breath?

Several things can contribute to bad breath, some of which are easily preventable, while others may require medical intervention. 

Bacteria on the Tongue

The presence of bacteria on the tongue is one of the primary causes of unpleasant breath. These bacteria break down food particles and release foul-smelling gases, known as volatile sulfur compounds (VSCs), which cause bad breath.

Food and Drink

Certain foods and beverages can contribute to bad breath. Strong-smelling items like onions, garlic, spices, fish, dairy, coffee, and alcohol can leave lingering odors in the mouth, even after brushing.

Poor Oral Hygiene Habits

Neglecting regular brushing, flossing, and dental check-ups can lead to plaque and tartar build-up, which harbor odor-causing oral bacteria. This bacterial load can result in foul odor within the mouth, tooth decay, and periodontal disease.

Dry Mouth

Saliva plays a crucial role in keeping your mouth moist and maintaining oral health, as it helps to wash away food particles and bacteria. When saliva production is reduced, the mouth becomes dry and creates an environment where bacteria can thrive, leading to mouth odor. Dry mouth can come from a congested nose (mouth breathing), certain medications, blocked salivary gland ducts, and conditions like Sjogren’s syndrome.

Certain Medical Conditions

Some health conditions, such as acid reflux, tonsillitis, and respiratory tract infections, increase mucus production and oral bacteria, which cause unpleasant breath. 


Smoke particles and chemicals in tobacco products can cause bad odors. Tobacco users are prone to tooth decay, gum disease, and dry mouth.

Uncontrolled Diabetes

Individuals with uncontrolled diabetes may experience bad breath due to increased levels of ketones in the body, which can produce a fruity or acetone-like odor.

Unhealthy Diet

A diet high in sugar and processed foods can contribute to a breath odor by promoting the growth of odor-causing bacteria in the mouth. A diet with mostly whole, healthy foods will make the mouth less hospitable to these bacteria.

Sinus Infections

Sinus infections can cause bad breath due to the presence of mucus and bacteria in the nasal passages and throat. This can result in a foul-smelling odor that is difficult to eliminate with regular oral hygiene practices. Your doctor might recommend a nasal rinse to flush out the mucus and bacteria.

Ways to Improve Your Oral Health

Maintaining good oral hygiene and making lifestyle changes can help prevent bad breath and improve overall oral health.

Brush and Floss Regularly

To help remove food particles and bacteria that contribute to plaque buildup, brush your teeth at least twice a day and floss daily. The plaque will harden into tartar and give the bacteria places to hide and produce a bad smell.

Use a Tongue Scraper

Gently using a tongue scraper after you brush can help remove bacteria and food debris. Tongue cleaning is a simple, safe, and effective way to fight troublesome breath.

Drink Plenty of Water

Staying hydrated can help avoid dry mouth and improve saliva production, which can help wash away food particles. Drinking water can also help dilute acids in the mouth, slowing the growth of bacteria. A 2016 study found strong evidence that drinking water in the morning eradicated up to 60% of the microbes that cause foul morning breath.

Avoid Sugary Foods and Drinks

Sugary foods and drinks are a source of food for bacteria. These substances not only feed bacteria but also create an acidic environment where the bacteria thrive and cause a bad smell.

Chew Sugar-Free Gum to Stimulate Saliva Production

Stimulating saliva production by chewing sugar-free gum can help wash away bacteria and food particles that cause bad breath. Look for gums containing xylitol, as it has been shown to help reduce the growth of odor-causing bacteria.

Visit the Dentist Regularly

Regular dental cleanings can help keep your teeth and gums healthy, reducing the risk of bad breath. Your dentist can also identify and treat any underlying issues, such as gum disease or tooth decay that may be contributing to the problem.

Use an Antibacterial Mouthwash

Using an antimicrobial mouth rinse (or antiseptic mouthwash) can help kill bacteria that cause bad breath and promote a fresh, clean feeling in the mouth. Be sure to follow the instructions on the label and use mouthwash as directed. 

Natural Remedies for Bad Breath

Several natural remedies can help combat bad breath, including:

  • Rinsing with a mixture of water and a few drops of essential oil, such as peppermint or tea tree oil to help freshen breath and kill bacteria.
  • Chewing on fresh herbs like parsley, basil, or mint to help neutralize bad breath odors.
  • Drinking green tea, which contains polyphenols that can help reduce the growth of odor-causing bacteria.

Foods That Help Combat Bad Breath

Certain foods can help improve bad breath by promoting saliva production and neutralizing odors. These include:

  • Crunchy fruits and vegetables, such as apples, carrots, and celery, which can help clean the teeth and stimulate saliva production.
  • Foods rich in vitamin C, such as oranges, strawberries, and kiwi, can help kill odor-causing bacteria and freshen breath.
  • Unsweetened yogurt, which has been shown to help reduce levels of hydrogen sulfide, a compound that can cause odor.

Over-the-Counter Products for Treating Bad Breath

There are several over-the-counter products available that can help treat and prevent bad breath, including:

  • Breath mints and lozenges, which can help mask bad breath odors and stimulate saliva production.
  • Oral rinses that are designed to neutralize bad breath odors and kill bacteria.
  • Toothpastes containing antibacterial agents, such as triclosan or stannous fluoride, which can help reduce plaque and bacteria that cause bad breath.

Professional Dental Treatments for Chronic Bad Breath

If you suffer from chronic bad breath that does not improve with at-home treatments and lifestyle changes, it may be necessary to seek professional dental care and learn about the average teeth cleaning cost. Some treatments that may be recommended include:

Professional Cleanings

A dental hygienist can perform a thorough cleaning to make your mouth clean by removing bacterial plaque and tartar buildup to make your mouth less prone to odor.

Fluoride Treatments

Fluoride treatments can help strengthen tooth enamel and reduce the risk of tooth decay and bad breath.

Dental Sealants

Dental sealants are a protective coating applied to the chewing surfaces of the back teeth to help prevent cavities and bad breath.

Root Canal Treatment

A root canal may be necessary if tooth decay has reached the pulp of the tooth, causing pain and bad breath.

Perio Protect Trays

Perio Protect Trays are custom-fitted trays designed to deliver medication directly to the gums, helping to treat gum disease and reduce bad breath. These trays are worn for a short period each day for the treatment of halitosis caused by periodontal conditions.

Laser Treatment for Gum Disease

Laser treatment for gum disease is a minimally invasive procedure that removes infected gum tissue and kills bacteria. Laser is a very effective treatment that can help improve gum health and reduce bad breath associated with gum disease.

Bad Breath FAQs

Can chronic bad breath be cured?

In many cases, genuine halitosis can be cured or significantly improved with a proper oral care routine, lifestyle changes, and professional dental treatments. Identifying and addressing the underlying cause is essential for an effective treatment that gives long-lasting results.

Which medicine is best for bad breath?

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, as effective treatment for bad breath depends on the underlying cause. It is essential to consult with a dental professional to determine the most appropriate treatment plan for your specific situation.

Can vitamin D cause bad breath?

There is no direct link between vitamin D and bad breath. However, vitamin D plays a crucial role in maintaining healthy teeth and gums, and a deficiency in vitamin D can contribute to gum disease and tooth decay, which can lead to bad breath. It is essential to maintain a balanced diet and get adequate sun exposure to ensure you are getting enough vitamin D for optimal oral health.

Call Us Today

Dr. John Paul Gallardo and his Miami, FL practice provide a variety of treatments to patients suffering from bad breath. Periodontists will help you determine the best strategy to address your problem, whether it is cosmetic or related to a more serious issue, such as gum disease. Call 305-447-1447 today to schedule a consultation.