What Are the Causes of Bad Breath?

Halitosis is the technical term for bad breath. This typically refers to bad breath that is persistent, which is particularly bothersome. A variety of factors can cause bad breath. The most common include:

Poor Oral Hygiene

Failing to brush and floss regularly is one of the most frequent causes of bad breath. Not getting rid of the bacteria from your mouth can cause the odor to get worse. Brushing and flossing your teeth at least twice a day can help you prevent plaque buildup, which can also lead to bad breath.

Gum Disease

Gum disease is the leading cause of halitosis or bad breath. When plaque isn't removed, it builds up on the teeth, causing bacteria. Bacteria produce acid that breaks down tooth enamel, creating cavities. Gum disease can also cause gum recession, which can expose the root of the tooth, causing even more sensitivity.


Bad breath is most commonly caused by tooth decay. Bacteria in the mouth produce odorous byproducts that are released into the mouth. When bacteria result in tooth decay, odorous breath can be the result.


Smoking is one of the most significant causes of halitosis. When you smoke, you inhale hundreds of chemicals that can cause chronic bad breath. Also, cigarettes can stain your teeth yellow and brown, causing your teeth to look yellow and your smile to look dull.

Dry Mouth

A dry mouth happens when your salivary glands don't produce enough saliva to keep your mouth moist. A dry mouth can be caused by many things, including smoking, acid reflux, certain medications, or diseases.

Saliva cleanses your mouth of leftover food particles and bacteria, helping to prevent tooth decay and bad breath.

Systemic Health Issues

A systemic health issue can cause bad breath. Inflammatory conditions like gum disease, diabetes, and bronchitis can lead to halitosis. Sinus infections or acid reflux can also cause bad breath.

These conditions should be diagnosed and managed by a medical professional.


Many medications, both prescription and over-the-counter, can cause halitosis. Some of the most common medications that can contribute to bad breath are:

  • Antihistamines
  • ACE inhibitors and ARBs
  • Antidepressants
  • Cardiac medications
  • Antipsychotics
  • Diabetes medications


Certain foods cause bad breath. Alcoholic beverages, like wine, beer, and whiskey, can dry out the mouth. When your mouth is dry, it creates more odor-causing bacteria. If you eat a lot of garlic or onions, they can cause bad breath. Certain spices, like curry powder, can also leave an unpleasant odor.

If you eat a lot of sugar, it is bad for your teeth, but it can cause bad breath, too. Bacteria feed on sugar, so the more sugar you eat, the more bacteria you have in your mouth.

Tongue Piercing

Tongue piercings, like the uvula piercing, can trap bacteria and debris. The bacteria and debris can then cause bad breath. The tongue can also swell and lose its papillae, which can further alter the smell of your breath.

At Arizona Dental, we ensure to provide each of our patients with a positive and relaxing experience. If you're ready to experience the best dental care, please contact us from your nearest location. We will be happy to guide you further.


3010 E Cactus Rd, Phoenix, AZ 85032

Phone: (602) 788-4040


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10001 West Bell Rd suite 123, Sun City, AZ 85351

Phone: (623) 933-1111


  • MON:8:00 am-5:00 pm
  • TUE:Closed
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  • THU - SUN:Closed
Contact Us