Halitosis, or bad breath, is more than just an indicator that you need to brush your teeth. Roughly 1 in 4 people in the US live with Halitosis. While having bad breath occasionally isn’t too bad, chronic bad breath can be a sign of poor oral health. This article will discuss some of the major health issues that halitosis can indicate.

Common Oral Causes of Halitosis

Generally, bad breath is caused by a build-up of odorous volatile sulfur compounds or VSCs. There are 3 main reasons that this may occur.

Bacterial Imbalances and Halitosis

Firstly, Halitosis can come from an imbalance of bacteria in the mouth. Our digestive system starts in the mouth, where our teeth, tongue, and saliva work alongside healthy bacteria to break down food. However, if there is a build-up of other bacteria, viruses, or fungi, our mouth’s microbiome may be thrown out of whack. This can be the start of gum disease, cavities, and bad breath. These unhealthy pathogens can coat your gums, tongue, and teeth. Left unchecked, they will require more than a toothbrush to clean up.

Dry Mouth

A dry mouth can be caused by a number of factors, such as medication side effects, diet, or even genetics. It is common to experience dry mouth after sleeping through the night or drinking alcohol. One function of saliva is to wash away some of the bad bacteria and prevent them from building up. This is one of the reasons for morning breath.

Gum Disease

Periodontal disease affects roughly 75% of all adults, overall. Gum disease allows for deeper pockets in the gums. Over time, these pockets can harbor bacteria and lead to tooth loss. If left untreated, your gum disease can require your dentist’s intervention before it becomes severe.

Common Extraoral Causes of Halitosis

In addition to your overall mouth health, there are other factors that can cause chronic bad breath.


Your diet can be a primary source of your bad breath. The 3 main offenders are garlic, onions, and coffee. High-sulfur foods such as eggs and cruciferous vegetables can lead to bad breath too. Reduce this effect by roasting these vegetables lightly instead of boiling them until soft. Alternatively, you can try eating them raw. This will reduce the release of the sulfuric compounds until they are further along the digestive process. Additionally, you will be able to get more nutrients out of them. For eggs, try not to overcook them. If you are making hardboiled eggs, take them out sooner to reduce the release of sulfur compounds. High-fiber foods can also reduce bad breath.

Acid Reflux

Acid reflux can cause Halitosis from a buildup of post-nasal drip onto the back of the tongue. This creates irritation on the walls of the throat. Over time, this can release foul odors.

Illnesses and Halitosis

Your chronic Halitosis can be an indicator of other serious health conditions. Those with gum disease are more likely to develop cardiovascular conditions. This is because the bacteria in deep gum pockets can leech into the bloodstream over time, and affect the heart.

Ways to Improve Your Halitosis

There isn’t a simple solution to get rid of Halitosis entirely. However, with the right maintenance and good practices, you can improve your mouth health and reduce your periods of halitosis. Generally, a good place to start is with regular oral hygiene care. Be sure to brush your teeth twice daily, and floss once a day. Don’t forget to brush your tongue, too. Use mouthwash after brushing your teeth.
Work with your dentist to improve your mouth health. They will be able to recommend treatments and home care that will best suit your needs. Regular appointments can help reduce halitosis and the development of gum disease. If your chronic bad breath isn’t clearing up from daily oral hygiene, your dentist may be able to help through deeper cleaning procedures.

A Center for Dental Excellence does not provide medical or healthcare advice via articles. This material has been prepared for informational purposes only. It is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for medical advice.
A Center for Dental Excellence provides expert dental care to the Brooklyn and Staten Island communities we serve. To schedule an appointment or consultation, contact us or call the office you would like to visit. (718) 232-8289 for Brooklyn, and (718) 980-9555 for Staten Island.