What Causes Bad Breath?

Bad breath causes are a result of odor compounds released from the mouth. These odor compounds can be caused by oral bacteria as well as certain foods that we eat. If you suffer from bad breath, you are not alone. The American Dental Association recently found that nearly half of all Americans suffer from bad breath to some degree, and of that half, 50% have a chronic bad breath problem.

It can be an embarrassing situation often times leaving an individual socially timid and insecure. In severe cases, bad breath can cause anxiety, depression and withdrawal from society all together.

First, it is important to understand what causes bad breath. Not all causes are the same and thus not all potential remedies are the same. However, knowing the basic underlying reasons as well as various means to reduce bad breath can hopefully point people in the right direction towards having a fresher smelling mouth.


What are Common Bad Breath Causes?

Poor Hygiene

The human mouth is filled with bacteria. It is estimated that the average person’s mouth contains around 600 different types. These bacteria feed off of proteins in the mouth, and release waste. It is this waste byproduct that causes the breath to smell.

Sulfides: rotting egg smell
Cadaverine: rotting flesh smell
Putrescine: similar to cadaverine, it has the smell of rotting meat
Skatole: has a smell similar to feces

Improper dental maintenance allows bacteria to flourish. In addition, it also does not remove food particles which serve as food for these bacteria.



Certain foods can be a cause of bad breath. They contain various sulfur and organic compounds that when either broken down or absorbed into the body, produce an odor that can be compared to the smell of rotting eggs. Garlic for example contains high amounts of diallyl disulfide as well as other organosulfur compounds. When it is broken down in the body, these compounds are released and absorbed into the blood and organs. As they enter the lungs, for instance, these compounds are emitted through the mouth as you breathe.

Foods that are high in sulfur compounds include packaged meat, seafood, garlic, onions, egg yolk, dairy products, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, asparagus and spices such as coriander and mustard seed.


Disease & Illness

Disease and illness do not directly affect breath odor, however the symptoms and effects of certain medical conditions do. Xerostomia or more commonly referred to as ‘dry mouth’ is a condition in which the presence of saliva is reduced leaving the mouth dry. Causes can range from medication to breathing habits, both normal and a result of a medical condition. Saliva plays a key role in washing away bacteria, food particles and other protein deposits. The lack of saliva promotes bacteria growth which in turn can lead to increased bad breath issues.

Infections of the respiratory tract such as pneumonia, bronchitis, chronic sinus infection and post nasal drip increase production of mucus. Mucus is primarily made of proteins, and a key catalyst of sulfide production from bacteria living in the mouth, tongue and throat.



Certain medications have the effect of drying out the mouth. As noted earlier, a dry mouth leads to an increase in oral bacteria due to the lack of saliva.



Smoking can cause bad breath for a number of different reasons. It dries the mouth which can help to promote the growth of bacteria. Smoking also contains numerous amounts of harmful chemicals. These chemicals weaken the immunity of not only cells in the mouth, but of the entire body as well. A weakened immune system will not only allow bacteria to persist longer, but cause additional bacteria to spawn. In addition it can lead to further health complications which in turn can cause bad breath.
Another byproduct of smoking is the build up of mucus. Mucus contains proteins which are broken down by bacteria. Byproducts of this break down process include smelly odor compounds such as sulfides, cadaverine, putrescine and skatole.


What Can You Do To Reduce Bad Breath?

Brush, Floss and Rinse Daily

Maintaining good oral hygiene through daily brushing and flossing will help to keep bacteria levels under control as well as remove excess food particles and odor compounds. It will also help to reduce the risk of oral and dental disease caused by bacteria.


Eat A Well Balanced Diet

Because acidic food and those high in protein generally tend to contain high amounts of sulfide compounds, limiting the intake of these foods can greatly reduce it’s effect on breath odor. As food is broken down inside of the body, these compounds are released and absorbed into the blood and organs (such as the lungs). As you breathe, odor compounds are released into the air.
The key is to maintain a well balanced diet consisting of vegetables in addition to proteins and carbohydrates. Processed meats as well as things high in fat should also be avoided.


Drink Water

Drinking water and keeping the mouth hydrated has a similar effect as saliva. It helps to wash away bacteria and residual food particles. It keeps the mouth moist and prevents dry mouth conditions.


Chlorophyllin Supplements

Chlorophyllin has been used for many years as a method to reduce odor. Made from natural chlorophyll, it takes a different approach in comparison to conventional breath odor remedies. Rather than fighting odor on the surface, it works by absorbing odor compounds beneath it.

Because it is water soluble, it has the unique ability of being able to bind to odor compounds such as sulfides, and neutralize them before they are released from the mouth. Many people have reported great success when using chlorophyllin supplements to eliminate bad breath.


Stop Smoking

Not smoking allows the bodies immune system to function properly. This in turn allows the oral cavity to control bacteria growth better. It also reduces drying of the mouth and mucus production; both factors that contribute to bad breath.

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