Register for Our Implant Informational Open House!Learn More ❯
Call Now: 317-882-0228
Indianapolis Dentistry: 317-953-5348
7218 US 31 S Indianapolis, IN 46227
We are not a registered medicaid provider

What Causes Bad Breath?

January 9, 2014

Bad breath, also known as halitosis, can be embarrassing to a person. This unpleasant odor can either strike periodically (like morning breath) or be persistent, depending on the cause. There are many causes of bad breath – it can result from poor dental habits or maybe a sign of other more serious health problems. It can also worsen because of dietary choices and unhealthy lifestyle habits.

How Do You Know If You Have Bad Breath?

Know that you might not notice you have bad breath right away. And the common “breathing into your hand” to know if you have bad breath doesn’t work. When you breathe, you don't use your throat the same way you do when you talk. When you talk, you tend to bring out the odors from the back of your mouth (where bad breath originates), which simply breathing doesn't do. Also, because we tend to get used to our own smells, it's hard for a person to tell if he or she has bad breath. To know if you have bad breath, aside from asking a close friend or family member, simply lick the inside of your wrist and sniff - if the smell is bad, you can be pretty sure that your breath is too.  

What Causes Bad Breath?

If you are one of the 90 million Americans who suffer from bad breath, here are some of the possible causes:


According to the American Dental Association, most mouth odors originate from the mouth itself – either from the food one eats or the bacteria present in there. Think of bad breath like any other body odor – it’s a result of bacteria reacting with other substances in the body and the bad odor is one of the resulting byproducts. Brushing your teeth isn’t enough as bits of food get caught between the teeth and on the tongue. Flossing should be done too.


Food like garlic, coffee and onions emit a strong smell and can contribute to bad breath. Oils from these foods are absorbed and the byproducts enter your bloodstream so you are actually breathing the odors out through your lungs three to four hours later. High-protein, low-carb diets also cause your body to burn stored fats for fuel instead of carbs and can lead to a condition called ketosis. Ketones doesn't smell particularly good.


Dry mouth (xerostomia) is a condition that affects the flow of saliva. This causes bacteria to build up in the mouth and this leads to bad breath. Dry mouth may be caused by some medicines, salivary gland problems or by continually breathing through the mouth instead of the nose. This is why if your snore when you sleep, you have a higher chance of having bad breath when you wake up than those who don't.

Occasionally, bad breath can be a sign of a more serious illness. The most common systemic causes of bad breath are diabetes or GERD (gastro esophageal reflux disease). Diabetes can also cause ketosis, and the resulting bad breath is sometimes one of first symptoms that lead to diagnosis. GERD is a backflow of acid from the stomach to the esophagus.


Not only does smoking cause bad breath, it also stains your teeth, irritates your gums and can even cause your senses of smell and taste to go flat. People who smoke are more likely to suffer from gum disease and also have a greater risk of developing cancer of the mouth, lung cancer and heart disease.

How Can I Prevent Bad Breath?

To prevent bad breath, you must get rid or avoid its causes listed above. You must get treated for any gum disease if you are diagnosed with one. If tooth decay is present, fillings should be done. Brush your teeth, gums and tongue for two full minutes, twice a day with a good toothpaste. Dr. Reese recommends Carifree Ha Nano Gel. Floss your teeth  - brushing alone only cleans up to about 60 percent of the surface of your teeth.

You can also make a running list of the foods you eat and ask your dentist which ones are most likely the cause of bad breath.

How Can My Dentist Help?

Dental checkups can go a long way to help identify potential causes of bad breath. Your dentist can perform routine maintenance on your teeth and check for other possible causes of bad breath after eliminating any causative agents in the mouth and refer you to a specialist accordingly.

Dr. Reese can teach you about oral hygiene and recommend dental products you can use to help keep your breath fresh. He does gentle, fluoride-free cleanings and afterwards, Dr. Reese will make sure you are aware of your oral health position and what options you have. Call now for an appointment – 317-882-0228. Our clinic is located just north of Greenwood, IN.