Halitosis and Causes of Chronic Bad Breath

Posted On: April 6, 2020

Halitosis is the clinical word used to describe chronic bad breath. It is estimated that 25% of people are affected with this condition. Unfortunately, this is not something that a quick tooth brushing and mouthwash gargle in the morning will get rid of.  If you do have halitosis for an extended amount of time it is possible it could be a sign of an underlying health issue.

Causes of Halitosis, or Bad Breath


Xerostomia, also known as chronic dry mouth, occurs when the production of saliva is slowed down.  One of the jobs of saliva is to wash away leftover food particles and bacteria from your mouth. When saliva is not present to perform this task, the bacteria can cause a very unpleasant odor in your mouth. There are many things that can cause dry mouth such as age, taking certain medications and receiving cancer therapy.  To help stimulate saliva production you can try chewing sugar free gum or sucking on sugarless candies, rinsing with alcohol free mouthwash regularly and drinking more water throughout the day. If possible, avoid medications such as hormone medications, antihypertensives, antihistamines and bronchodilators. Many medications can contribute to bad breath since they can cause dry mouth.


Most of us know that onions and garlic can cause bad breath, but there are many other foods out there that could also be causing halitosis.

  1. Potatoes, grains, beans and nuts. These starchy foods can produce a smelly gas if your digestive system can not break down the starch immediately, causing bad breath.
  2. Foods high in sugar.  The bacteria in your mouth that causes halitosis feeds off of sugar to become stronger.
  3. Canned tuna is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, but when stored in a metal can, can promote oxidation.  This process leads to the production of unpleasant smelling compounds.

Rough, crispy fruits and vegetables such as carrots, celery or apples are great to snack on.  These foods can help increase your saliva flow to help wash away the bad bacteria that causes bad breath from your teeth, tongue and gums.

Dental Issues

Poor dental hygiene, which in turn produces plaque that causes gingivitis, cavities and periodontal disease can all be causes of bad breath. According to the American Dental Association (ADA) the lack of saliva produced in the mouth with halitosis can also increase the chance of developing dental decay, demineralization of teeth, tooth sensitivity, and/or oral infections. If you are experiencing any of these issues, or have concerns, it’s important bring ask your dentist or Orthodontist at your next scheduled appointment.

Infections of the mouth, nose and throat

Certain infections and chronic inflammation  can lead to postnasal drip contributing to bad breath.  Bacteria from these infections can also form on your tonsils and produce an unpleasant odor.

Chronic Conditions

Conditions such as certain cancers, diabetes, liver and kidney disease can all cause halitosis due to the chemicals they produce in the body. Gastric reflux disease is another cause of bad breath due to the constant reflux of stomach acids.

Tobacco Use

Smoking and other tobacco products can leave their own smell on your breath and can also contribute to dry mouth which as we know can cause bad breath.

In general to keep bad breath at bay you should follow a healthy dental routine by doing the following:

  • Brush at least twice a day.  Preferably after each meal if possible.
  • Floss. Did you know brushing only cleans about 60 percent of the tooth surface? Flossing removes plaque and the buildup of food particles from between your teeth.
  • Brush your tongue.  This helps to remove food, bacteria and dead cells that can accumulate and cause odor.
  • Visit your dentist regularly for cleanings.  If healthy oral hygiene habits are not helping to rid you of your bad breath your dentist will be able to determine if there is an underlying condition causing your problem.

Keeping up with good oral hygiene while wearing braces or Invisalign is extremely important. It takes more effort to keep your teeth and gums healthy with brackets and wires in the way. If you are worried about Halitosis while in Orthodontic treatment, ask your orthodontist for tips on how to avoid bad breath. At Fry Orthodontics we do our best to prepare our patients for issues such as these.