What causes bad breath and how to treat it

Captain Aquafresh skillfully juggling a mouthwash, a toothpaste and a toothbrush.

Bad breath is not something many people like to talk about. Sometimes called halitosis, it could be caused by a number of things. From the food you eat, to how you brush, to signs of other health problems. Whatever the cause, there are ways you can treat it. So you can get back to your fresh and confident self.

What causes bad breath?

It can be hard to put a finger on what causes bad breath. Some things can be easily treated and others may need more professional help. But once you know the cause, you’re a step closer to stopping it.

  • Smelly foods are a common reason. After food is digested and absorbed by your body, parts of it eventually reach your lungs. Which then adds a smell to the air you breathe out. Even with regular brushing and rinsing, some particularly strong odours (like garlic and onions) can take a day or two to properly leave your body.
  • Poor tooth care can also be to blame. If you don't brush effectively, lingering food particles can increase risk of tooth decay and cavities, and also give your breath an unfortunate smell. Likewise, smoking is a known cause of bad breath. As well as staining your teeth and irritating your gums.
  • When bad breath goes from being mild and occasional to more obvious and every day, it could be related to a health problem. These can include gum disease, dry mouth, yeast infections, respiratory tract infections, diabetes, acid reflux, and liver or kidney problems. Chat to your dentist or doctor for support and advice if you are ever worried or would like to know more.
Captain Aquafresh covering his mouth with a slightly embarassed facial expression.

What can I do to freshen my breath?

Toothpastes, mouthwashes and breath mints can help cover up bad breath. But to stop it for good, you first need to know what’s causing it. Some things you could try are:

  • Brushing after you eat is a simple way to help remove food and plaque from your mouth. Brushing twice a day and cleaning between your teeth with an interdental brush or floss at least once daily is a good routine to get into. And remember to also replace your toothbrush every three months.
  • Drinking lots of water can also help with bad breath. Keeping your mouth moist and helping wash away any food particles or bacteria that may be lingering.
  • Avoiding the usual suspects like smelly onions and garlic is an obvious one. But it will help to keep your breath at bay. Same goes for any drinks that leave a smell, like too much coffee or fizzy drinks. And cutting out tobacco will also help keep your mouth feeling clean and breath smelling fresh, as well as other health benefits.
  • A visit to the dentist may be needed if you’re concerned that the odour/ smell may be related to gum disease. Your dentist can help treat the issue and offer cleaning advice. Or in some cases refer you to a periodontist (a dentist who specialises in treating gum disease). If your bad breath is not caused by health or hygiene, your dentist can still help to find the problem and support with any treatment.

Bad breath can be uncomfortable to talk about. But there are some things you can do to reduce or even prevent it from happening. If in doubt, talk to your dentist to find the right treatment for you.

Back to top