Bad breath or halitosis is a problem that has been around since forever. One in 4 people have offensive breath, and some studies place the number as high as fifty percent of the population. The condition does not discriminate, anyone can suffer from it, young and old. However, according to medical experts, seniors are more likely to have bad breath. African Americans also continue to have higher rates of decay, cavities, and missing teeth which can all contribute to bad breath.

In most cases, however, just a few tweaks in your lifestyle can remedy the problem. 


  • Certain foods. The types of foods we ingest can contribute to bad breath. Odorous foods, like onions or garlic, can exacerbate unpleasant mouth odor. 
  • Dry mouth. This condition is often age-related and one of the main culprits of bad breath in seasoned folks. As we get older, the salivary glands produce less saliva, a natural mouth cleanser. A dry mouth with little saliva can’t cleanse itself to remove food particles. A dry mouth can be caused by medicines, a salivary gland disorder, or by always breathing through the mouth instead of the nose. 
  • Bad oral health. Neglecting to floss, not brushing your teeth, and ignoring routine dental visits can lead to odor-causing plaque buildup. Plaque can increase over time and cause irritation that leads to gum inflammation called periodontitis. The improper cleaning of dentures can also harbor bacteria and fungi that will lead to offensive breath. Not brushing your tongue allows odor-causing bacteria to produce smelly sulfur compounds. 
  • Tobacco. Products that contain tobacco, such as cigarettes, cigars, smokeless tobacco, and snuff, stain the teeth and bring on the foul breath. 
  • Health conditions. Infections or inflammation of the nose, throat, and mouth can also contribute to bad breath. In addition, diseases like diabetes, some cancers, gastrointestinal issues like reflux, liver/kidney failure, lung infections, bowel obstruction, abscesses, and other medical conditions can make the breath smell unpleasant. 


The best way to determine if you have bad breath is to ask someone to take a whiff of your breath. If no one is around, you can lick your wrist, let it dry, then smell it. If you are an offender and your problem is not a medical one, you can follow these tips to get your breath just right: 

  • Adopt healthy oral habits. A visit to a dentist twice a year for a routine cleaning and check-up is advised to ward off problems like gum disease or cavities. The dentist might recommend toothpaste or mouthwash with an antibacterial ingredient that can help correct the problem. If gum disease is present, a dentist can clear away the bacterial build-up in pockets between the gums and teeth. If you wear dentures, a bridge, or a mouth guard, make sure you know how to clean them properly. Change your toothbrush every couple of months as well. Don’t forget to brush at least twice a day and floss regularly to avoid plaque build-up. 
  • Tackle dry mouth.  If you suffer from a dry mouth, drinking water or chewing sugarless gum can help to keep the saliva flowing. Smoking and drinking alcohol can dehydrate the mouth, so avoid doing so.  If your mouth is chronically dry, a doctor may prescribe medication that stimulates the flow of saliva. 
  • Keep away from smelly foods. Steer clear of foods that smell like onions, garlic, and spicy foods, which are all contributors to foul breath. Cut down on coffee and alcohol consumption, as these can cause unpleasant mouth odors. Sugary foods are also linked to bad breath. 

If bad breath persists and your dentist cannot get to the root of it, see your healthcare provider, who can help determine its underlying cause.