Bad Breath: Three Ways to Combat It

Bad breath, also called halitosis, is something that most of us have experienced, most of us have had at one time or another but is also something many of us have difficulties talking about. Understanding the causes of bad breath can be the first step in addressing this delicate issue. One common yet often overlooked cause is "cavity breath," which arises when dental cavities harbor bacteria that produce foul odors.

For many, chronic halitosis is a problem that can be psychologically damaging, even affecting personal relationships or jobs. This can happen despite a regular, good regimen of home oral care. When standard oral hygiene practices are not enough, exploring professional halitosis treatment becomes essential. These treatments can include specialized mouthwashes and toothpastes designed to combat the bacteria that cause bad breath, as well as targeted dental interventions like deep cleanings or addressing underlying conditions such as gum disease or infections.

Quick Facts About Bad Breath: 

  • Bad breath affects 1 out of every 4 people around the world. 
  • There are over 100 causes of bad breath (see below). 
  • You can’t smell your own bad breath.

What Causes Bad Breath? 

Poor Oral Hygiene 

Digestion begins in your mouth when food is broken down by chewing and saliva. Any food that lingers in your mouth (trapped in your teeth or when tiny particles are trapped by your taste buds) will start to decay. This releases odor-causing molecules known as volatile sulfur compounds (VSCs). Over time, if these food particles are not thoroughly removed, they can contribute to the formation of dental cavities. The presence of cavities often exacerbates the problem of bad breath, leading to what is commonly referred to as "cavity breath." This specific type of bad breath is directly linked to the decay within the cavities, where bacteria continue to produce VSCs in a concentrated area, intensifying the odor and making it persistent.

Alcohol, Coffee & Cigarettes 

At Don Head Dental Care, we know that the one common factor amongst coffee, alcohol, and cigarettes is that they all slow down the production of saliva. Saliva is important because its bacterial enzymes kill bacteria that causes bad breath (as it re-mineralizes your tooth enamel, protecting your teeth from decay-causing bacteria).   

Spicy, Odorous Foods 

Garlic, onions, and cured meats, etc. can cause bad breath, but it’s temporary as odor is released during ingestion and digestion … and then it’s gone.   

Dry Mouth 

Also known as xerostomia, dry mouth can cause halitosis as saliva is lacking. Saliva washes away debris that accumulate on the tongue, gums, and cheeks. It’s the decomposition of this debris that causes bad breath.  

Gastrointestinal Problems/Acid Reflux 

When your stomach acids bubble up to your esophagus, this may cause your food to regurgitate back to your esophagus. The lingering acids can cause bad breath.  


There are some medications that can reduce saliva and increase your chances of having bad breath.