Bad breath: The causes and how to stop it

Dr Alistair Graham

Dr Alistair Graham

Are you concerned about the smell of your breath, or have you been told by someone close to you that you suffer from bad breath?

Mouthwashes and minty gums can provide temporary relief, but these are band aid solutions that don’t address the underlying cause of bad breath.

It’s helpful to know everyone has experienced bad breath at one point or another.

In this article I explain the causes of bad breath and what you can do to prevent it.

What Causes Bad Breath?

While we’d like nothing better than to have fresh minty breath all the time, this is not the case. Bacteria living in our mouths can break down proteins and give off unpleasant odours. The bacteria in the mouth live and thrive in a dark, warm environment.

Bad breath can be caused or worsened by:

  • Poor oral hygiene
  • Dry mouth
  • Smoking and tobacco products
  • Foods such as garlic, onions and spices
  • Certain diseases and health problems
  • Pregnancy
  • Some medications that cause dry mouth

Poor Dental Hygiene

If you are not as thorough as you should be with brushing and flossing, your breath might not be the best smelling in the world. A good oral care regime helps to remove the build up of bacteria which is the source of the unpleasant odours escaping your mouth.

Dental hygiene is essential not only to your fresh breath, but also to your oral health in general.


Food is one of the leading causes of bad breath. Certain foods are worse than others. Onions, garlic, spices, dairy, meat and fish are some of the repeat offenders. Processed and refined sugars can also give you bad breath.

You may not want to hear this but – coffee might do it as well because of its acidic nature which provides a perfect breeding environment for the bacteria.

What Can You Do to Help Prevent Bad Breath?

Fortunately there are some simple tips you can try to help you achieve fresher breath and make you feel less self-conscious, these include:

  • Brushing your teeth twice a day for about two minutes to remove bacteria and plaque
  • Remember to floss to clean plaque and debris from between your teeth
  • Scraping your tongue to rid it of bacteria
  • Rinsing your mouth with mouthwash
  • Staying away from foods that can affect the breath
  • Drinking plenty of water
  • Giving up or cutting down smoking
  • Chewing sugar-free gum after meals to stimulate saliva
  • Keeping your gums in a healthy condition

Despite following the above suggestions to reduce bad breath, some people may find that they still experience bad breath. This is known as chronic bad breath.

If you’re concerned about your breath or oral health, visit your dentist so they can assess your teeth and gum health.

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