Bad Breath and Dentistry


At one time or another all of us have had bad breath. Bad breath, also known as halitosis, can have many causes from the types of foods one eats, to a symptom or result of an underlying or existing medical or dental issue. If you, or someone you know has chronic bad breath it is important that you determine the cause as soon as possible so that you can address it if needed and prevent potentially, more serious, health problems.

What are the Normal Causes of Bad Breath?

Normal bad breath has many causes listed below:

  • Unclean dentures, or braces
  • Morning breath, resulting from bacteria caused by dryness in the mouth while we sleep
  • Respiratory tract infections
  • Poor dental hygiene; such as infrequent or improper brushing and flossing.
  • Diseases or illnesses such as diabetes, lung disease, reflux disease, kidney disease, liver disease, and sinus disease
  • Poor oral hygiene eventually will lead to periodontal (gum) disease which also causes bad breath.
  • Faulty dental work
  • Coffee, smoking, onions, garlic, and chewing tobacco
  • Food-impacted areas between the teeth
  • The build up of tongue bacteria due to the mouth’s warm, moist conditions is a primary cause of bad breath.
  • Abscesses, oral based lesions and infections in the mouth
  • Throat, lung or sinus infections.
  • Medications-Some medications can cause bad breath

Diagnosis for Bad Breath:


  • Observation: A dentist or physician may notice bad breath during an office visit through simple smell test.
  • Review of medical history: Your dentist typically will review your medical history for possible issues that can cause bad breath and for medicines that can affect dryness in the mouth.
  • Learn about your habits:Your dentist should also learn about your eating habits, as well as your personal habits as well as any symptoms you are experiencing.
  • Examination of mouth: Your dentist will examine your teeth, gums, mouth and salivary glands. He or she also will feel your head and neck and will evaluate your breath when you exhale from your nose and from your mouth.


  • Your dentist may refer you to your family physician if an illness is the most likely cause. In severe cases of gum disease, your dentist may suggest that you see a periodontist (dentist who specializes in gum problems).
  • You may need diagnostic tests if the doctor has reason to suspect diabetes, liver disease kidney disease, lung infection or Sjögren’s syndrome.


Here are some tips for preventing bad breath:

  • Visit your dentist at least twice yearly for a cleaning and check up. Your dentist will be able detect and treat, dry mouth, periodontal disease, or other problems that may be the cause of bad breath
  • Take care to avoid foods that cause you bad breath. It may be helpful to keep a log of the foods you eat and notice that are causing you problems to discuss with your dentist
  • Take dental x-rays on a yearly basis to help diagnose potential issues.
  • Check to make sure medications are not the cause of bad breath. Bring a list of the medications you take to your dentist to review
  • Stop smoking or using chewing tobacco products.
  • Practice good oral hygiene by brushing 2-3 times a day with an electric tooth brush and fluoride toothpaste. If you use a toothbrush use a soft toothbrush. Replace your toothbrush at least every 3 months.
  • Brush your tongue after you eat as well.
  • Use floss and a rinse to remove food particles and plaque between your teeth once a day.
  • Ensure that your dentist does annual mapping of the gum-line to check for potential pockets in the gums that will cause gum problems.
  • Dentures should be removed at night and will need a thorough cleaning before being used in the morning.
  • Drink water often to keep the mouth moist and rinsed.
  • Chewing gum can also be used to stimulate the production of saliva, which can help wash away food particles and bacteria.

If you’d like to set up an appointment to begin to address a dental problem that may be causing bad breath contact Boston Dental Design, Boston dentist Dimitris Zourdos at (617) 423-6777. We will be happy to help you determine the cause, and if possible, fix the problem. We have the most current dental information and technology to help you address dental issues that can cause bad breath.

Holly Cloutier