Bad Breath: What Causes It and How to Treat It

dentist sterling va

Do you suffer from bad breath? If so, do not worry. You are not alone. Millions of people worldwide experience bad breath daily, and almost half of all adults experience bad breath at some point in their lives.

Bad breath can be embarrassing and frustrating, and it can sometimes be a sign of a more severe problem. It is crucial to get to the root cause of your bad breath before you go about treating it so that you can successfully get rid of the unpleasant odor.

Common Causes of Bad Breath

Receiving a proper diagnosis of your bad breath can save you time, money, and energy in the long run so that you can properly treat it. There are many different causes of bad breath, but some of the most common include:

Poor Oral Hygiene

The most common cause of bad-smelling breath is poor oral health care. You can help prevent and eliminate bad breath by making sure you are practicing good oral hygiene habits at home.

  • Brush your teeth at least twice a day, for two minutes each time.
  • Brush with fluoride toothpaste to fight odor-causing bacteria that produce plaque and acid that eat away your tooth enamel.
  • Make sure you also floss once a day to clean away pieces of food that get stuck between your teeth.
  • Clean your tongue with a tongue scraper or brush once a day to remove the bad breath-causing bacteria and other debris on the surface of your tongue.
  • If you wear dentures, make sure you take them out at night and soak them in water or an antibacterial solution overnight.

Gum Disease

Another common cause of bad breath is gum and periodontal disease. Gum disease is a condition that occurs when plaque and bacteria build up on the gums, causing them to become inflamed and swollen. If left untreated, it can lead to tooth loss.

Symptoms include:

  • redness and swelling in the gums
  • bleeding when you brush and floss
  • bad breath
  • toothaches

If you think you may have gum disease, make an appointment with your dentist for a consultation. Dentists can treat gum disease with antibiotics and surgery.


Certain foods can also cause bad breath. Foods high in sulfur content, such as onions and garlic, can cause bad breath. If you eat foods that contain these compounds, your saliva will release the smell of them as it tries to break down the food particles in your mouth.

You can help eliminate or reduce bad breath caused by eating garlic or onions by drinking water or chewing gum after meals, using a tongue scraper or brush to clean off any residue, and avoiding eating these foods before an important meeting or date.

Smoking and Alcohol

Smoking and drinking alcohol can also cause bad breath. Smoking cigarettes causes plaque to build upon the teeth and gums, which leads to gum disease and bad breath. Alcoholic beverages contain high sugar levels, feed oral bacteria, and create an odor in your mouth.

To reduce bad breath caused by smoking or drinking, try to cut down on how much you smoke and drink each day. If you cannot quit altogether, you should at least make an effort to reduce the number of cigarettes or drinks you have each day.

Dry Mouth

Another common cause of bad breath is dry mouth. A dry mouth occurs when your saliva production in the mouth is deficient. Saliva helps to cleanse the mouth and prevent bacteria from growing. When there is not enough saliva, food particles can accumulate and create an odor.

Symptoms of dry mouth include a sticky or dry feeling in the mouth, difficulty swallowing and speaking, bad breath, and a sour taste in the mouth. Your dentist may suggest artificial saliva.

Oral Cancer

Bad breath can also be a symptom of oral cancer. Oral cancer is more common among smokers and drinkers, but anyone can get it. Symptoms of oral cancer include:

  • bad breath
  • lumps or bumps in the mouth
  • bleeding from the mouth
  • pain when chewing or swallowing food
  • toothaches that will not go away after brushing your teeth for a while
  • a change in the way your teeth look

If you experience any of these symptoms, make an appointment with your dentist for a consultation.

How to Treat Bad Breath

There are many ways to treat bad breath, and the best way to treat it is to identify and address the cause of the problem. If you have bad breath due to an underlying health condition, your doctor will treat that condition and help resolve the issue.

However, if you are not sure why you have bad breath or what is causing it, there are some things you can do in the meantime at home to improve your oral hygiene and get rid of bad breath.

  • Make sure you brush your teeth twice a day with an American Dental Association (ADA) approved fluoridated toothpaste and floss once a day.
  • Avoid foods that cause bad breath, brush your teeth, floss after meals, and rinse with an alcohol-free mouthwash.
  • If you smoke or drink alcohol, try to cut down on how much you consume each day.
  • To keep your mouth moist, drink a lot of water, and if needed, use a saliva substitute.
  • Make sure you are eating healthy foods to keep your saliva flowing and avoid sugary foods and drinks that can cause tooth decay.

Contact PK Dentistry for a Dental Cleaning

If bad breath is a problem that you are regularly experiencing, please do not hesitate to contact PK Cosmetic and Family Dentistry for assistance. We can help identify the root cause of the problem and provide treatment options to help eliminate your bad breath. We offer various dental services, including dental cleanings, to help you maintain optimal oral health. Please call us at (703) 596-8184 today to schedule an appointment.