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Halitosis: What Is Causing Your Bad Breath?

dad with bad breath halitosis
Do you have halitosis?

Be honest: Do others shy away from you when you talk? Do you often have a foul or strange taste in your mouth? It’s possible that you’re suffering from halitosis, more commonly known as bad breath. All humans have it first thing in the morning; it’s caused by the waste products of the bacteria in our mouths. Most of the time, however, good oral hygiene (which includes brushing, flossing, and regular dental visits) keeps it in check. If you have bad breath at other times and it’s not being caused by the food you’re eating, it’s worth checking out this list of possible culprits.

Dental Issues

If you have dental decay, a gum infection, or a filling that’s letting bacteria leak underneath, you might have bad breath. While brushing and flossing can help somewhat, they won’t get to the root of the problem. Even worse, the issue is likely to get worse over time. If your halitosis doesn’t get any better after you brush and floss well, it’s time to see your dentist to find out if you have an infection or something else brewing in one of your teeth.


Have you ever taken an antihistamine or another medication and experienced a dry mouth? That lack of saliva can contribute to bad breath. If you often notice that your mouth is dry, this is a likely culprit. Think about what medications you’re taking and ask your doctor if a common side effect is dryness. If so, you can ask about switching, or you can just sip water or suck on sugar-free lozenges throughout the day to keep your saliva flowing. Sugar-free gum helps, too.

Sometimes certain medications can give you a strange taste in your mouth, which can make your breath smell funny. Mention it to your doctor. Remember, don’t stop taking any medications without your doctor’s advice.

Health Conditions

Certain health conditions can cause foul-tasting and smelling breath. Diabetes, for example, can cause bad breath. It can also cause a fruity or ammonia odor if your blood glucose levels are not where they should be. A stomach ulcer is another example of a condition that can cause foul breath. So can acid reflux (often called heartburn or GERD) or a sinus infection.

If boosting your oral hygiene regimen and a professional cleaning aren’t solving your halitosis problem, it’s time to make an appointment with your dentist, then your doctor, to rule out or confirm various conditions that can be causing your bad breath.

Creative Commons image by Tim McCune.

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