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Home > Dental Conditions > Bad Breath > Bad Breath Symptoms & Causes > Common Causes of Bad Breath Halitosis
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Common Causes of Bad Breath (Halitosis)

Proper oral hygiene can decrease bad breath.

About 85 percent of oral malodor (e.g., halitosis) originates in the mouth. Chronic bad breath can be caused by tooth decay, gum disease, oral cancer, digestive disorders or many other conditions. Visit the dentist to treat chronic bad breath. Occasional bad breath, however, is usually exacerbated by the food we eat. This transitory condition can be prevented if we understand how foods change the oral environment.

Anaerobic bacteria in the mouth produce volatile sulfur compounds (VSCs). Onions, garlic, and eggs are well known for their natural sulfur compounds. When milk spoils, bacteria convert lactose proteins and release amino acids that become odiferous VSCs.

Drying agents, sugars, dense protein foods and acids are main food categories that stimulate oral bacteria to produce large amounts of sulfur. 

Drying Agents

Although tobacco smoke is not a food, it will quickly dry out the mouth and cause bad breath. Alcohol is a common drying agent used in wine, beer and hard liquor. Surprisingly, alcohol is also used in most mouthwash. If you suffer from bad breath, do not use an alcohol-based mouth rinse.


Most mints increase bad breath rather than prevent it. How can this be? The sugar is fuel for bacteria to produce more VSCs. Hard candy breath mints also contain a second type of sugar that is converted by bacteria into glycan strands. These strands make it easy for plaque to accumulate on teeth and gums. Individuals often have difficulty self-diagnosing bad breath because their brain suppresses self-produced odors. As long as there is a strong mint taste, we incorrectly assume that our breath is fresh. Actually, the opposite is true! Sugary candies, mints and chewing gum make the breath smell worse!

Dense Proteins

Milk, cheese, yogurt, ice cream and other diary products often cause halitosis. Many people are lactose intolerant. This means they cannot break down the lactose protein. These individuals are most prone to a buildup of VSCs. Other dense protein foods like beef, chicken, fish and beans cause similar breath problems.


Any increase in the acidity of the oral cavity beyond its healthy pH of 6.5 will cause bacteria to reproduce faster. Coffee breath is very common. Other acidic beverages like tomato and citrus juices also cause bad breath. If you need a caffeine boost, try tea since it is less acidic than coffee. Water is perhaps the best beverage to fight halitosis since it is neutral (pH 7) and prevents dry mouth.

In addition to diet, regular dental care and good oral hygiene prevent most cases of halitosis. Using a tongue scraper and dental floss are beneficial too.

Do you think you might have a problem with bad breath? Don't wait until it gets worse -  call us at 1-866-970-0441 to find a great bad breath dentist today.


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