What Causes Bad Breath Anyway?

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What Causes Bad Breath Anyway?

By: Thuvarakan Tharmalingam

We have all suffered from an occasional case of bad breath. It's estimated that 50 to 65 percent of the population suffer from bad breath. A few unfortunate people suffer from chronic bad breath, seeming never to get rid of the foul odor that escapes every time they open their mouth. But what is the main cause of bad breath?

Like all living organisms, we have a variety of other organisms that live in or on us in a constant balance of life. In case of bad breath, the main cause is the bacteria that normally occur within your mouth; or more specifically the waste products these bacteria produce from their normal biological life.

Life of Bacteria in Your Mouth

Your body is a host to billions of bacteria, and the majority of them are beneficial to you; there are bacteria in your stomach which aid food digestion, there are helpful bacteria on your skin which protect you against other harmful bacteria, and there are bacteria that just love the environment of your mouth. The last type is called anaerobic bacteria.

Anaerobic bacteria live best in conditions where there is no oxygen. There are plenty of places for anaerobic bacteria to live in your mouth; under the gum line, on the back of your tongue, between the teeth, and just about any place in your mouth that may be covered by a thin film. It is the waste products of the anaerobic bacteria that cause bad breath.

Again, a person's mouth is home to hundreds of different species of bacteria. There is a constant battle going on in your mouth at all times. A battle for living space between that cause bad breath and those that don't. The precise balance between these types of bacteria, determines the freshness of your breath.

How Do They Cause Bad Breath?

Through normal living process, these bacteria produce waste products in your mouth. The most common of these are volatile sulfur compounds with very unpleasant odor. These compounds are referred to as "volatile" because they readily evaporate when exposed to air under normal temperatures. This volatility of these compounds can offend those around you very quickly.

While these volatile sulfur compounds are principal factor of bad breath cause, the anaerobic bacteria produce numerous other compounds that also have such offensive odors. They include:

  • Cadaverine - creates the smell associated with corpses

  • Putrescine - causes the odor of decaying meat

  • Skatole - has the characteristic smell of human feces

  • Isovaleric Acid - produces the smell of sweaty feet

What Do Anaerobic Bacteria Eat?

The waste products mentioned above are produced as anaerobic bacteria digest proteins. Therefore, anytime you eat a source of protein, the bacteria in your mouth get a meal too.

Even without an obvious source of protein, the anaerobic bacteria in your mouth can find a protein source anytime. There are many natural protein sources in your mouth, from dead skin cells to proteins found in saliva.


While you can't do anything about the fact that bacteria live in your mouth, it is important to realize that the disturbed balance between anaerobic bacteria and other types is a key factor in the cause of bad breath. You should do everything you can to make the conditions of your mouth as unattractive to anaerobic bacteria as possible.

About The Author

Thuvarakan Tharmalingam had been a long-term sufferer of bad breath or halitosis. He has created http://www.bad-breath-guide.com to share his knowledge of bad breath--acquired through a lot of research. The above article is written to inform people. It should not be treated as professional medical/dental advice.


p4in 26.03.2010. 18:13

What are some medical condition that causes bad breath? 10 points? I have a bad breath but i have a very good oral hygiene

Could it be because of a medical condition, lets say ulcer

what could be a cure for some medical conditions that causes bad breath?


Admin 26.03.2010. 18:13

See ... 10 points will not help you ... Only you you can help yourself ... Anyway, I feel for you. So I will give my thoughts.

Bad breath can be caused by various reasons: bad dental hygiene, gum disease (Which has nothing to do with how well you brush only), dry mouth, liver problems, nasal drips .... and so on. Since you seem to be in otherwise healthy condition, I would rule out some of the rare occasions when the issue can be caused by kidney and other conditions.

Thinking having good hygiene can be different than what a doctor would want for example. If you are brushing and flossing may be from some time, but prior to that you did not, then the plaque build up will cause persistent breadth issue. Only your periodontist can confirm that. If your regular dentist has not been able to resolve the issue, get a referral for the periodontist.

If gum disease is not the problem, cavities can collect the food. Sometimes, you may not be able to see the cavities and what you think as small cavity can be big inside. Only X-Ray's can reveal these issues.

If you are not already, you should see a dentist every six months to get your teeth cleaned. If you are smoking you would need to stop. Drink lots of water. That helped me a lot. Oh, the other thing is to clean your tongue with a tongue cleaner regularly. Don't over do it as tongue is real tender and can irritate easily.

Bad breadth problem in general is indicative of other systemic issues. It can be anything from mouth itself to other issues. Thus you should consult a doctor. My issue got cleared when I went to periodontist. Now I enjoy very smell free breath which in itself has increased my confidence.

Good luck,


broski907 23.10.2008. 14:03

Does being overweight cause bad breath in anyway? I've become a little overweight and seem to have bad breath at times that isn't remedied by brushing/rinsing 3-4 times a day. Only happens occasionally. Any ideas?


Admin 23.10.2008. 14:03

Bad breath can be caused by a vitamin deficiency. Do you eat good foods? If you eat horrible, then you can get bad breath. I know that sounds weird, but it is a fact. Many Adkins dieters get this due to the lack of carbohydrates.

There's only ONE WAY to lose fat - and that is to create a calorie deficit. However, there are two ways to create a calorie deficit - one is to decrease your food intake so you are eating less than you burn, the other is to increase your exercise and activity so you are burning more than you eat.

Of the two ways to create a calorie deficit, burning the fat is far superior to starving it. You see, cutting calories too much causes weight loss at first, but it also causes muscle loss and it eventually leads to a decrease in metabolism, so the weight loss stops. This is very common on conventional diets, right? You lose weight in the beginning, but then you hit a plateau that you just can't break through. Cutting calories even more at this point only digs you even into a deeper "metabolic hole."

Eating more of the right foods (up to a certain point) actually increases your metabolic "heat" like putting wood on a fire. Food is energy; food is fuel, and it produces (metabolic) heat.

Exercise burns calories and creates a calorie deficit, but the real advantage of exercise over diet is that exercise increases your metabolism, dieting slows it down. Exercise also has major health benefits, while starvation can only create health problems.

So if you eat more (healthy foods) and exercise more, you get a double increase in metabolism. If you eat less and exercise less you get a double decrease in metabolism. That makes complete sense doesn't it?

The IDEAL exercise program for fat loss has a combination of cardiovascular (aerobic) training and strength training. But ultimately, you're not likely to stick with exercise long term unless you choose activities you enjoy - so pick something you enjoy, even if it doesn't follow the guidelines of "traditional" fat loss programs. It's better to do something than nothing, and all exercise counts.

Some people may have orthopedic problems which limit the type of exercise they can do. But nearly everyone can walk. So if you can walk, then walk. And almost everyone can do some type of strength training. Instead of focusing on what you can't do or what you don't like to do, direct your attention to what you CAN do and what you would like to do.

Maybe you don't like being couped up inside all the time. Maybe you'd prefer hiking or jogging outside. Or maybe boxing or martial arts sounds cool to you. Maybe you like basketball or tennis. Maybe you'd enjoy classes, or yoga or pilates. Your options are nearly unlimited, but you have to do something or your body will begin to deteriorate.

As you increase your lean muscle mass, you'll also get a permanent increase in your resting metabolic rate. Muscle is what drives your metabolism, keeps you young and makes you look more physically attractive. Others will notice how good you look, and you'll feel better about yourself too. Yes, you may lose weight from diet alone, but you're likely to end up a "skinny fat person" with a slow metabolism and very little lean body mass (not to mention, you'll probably gain back all the fat)

Last, but not least, be careful what you say to yourself over and over because that tends to program your subconscious mind and create your self image. If you've been repeating to yourself for years, "I'm not big on exercise" or "I'm not an exercise person", that eventually becomes a part of your identity. You always tend to behave in alignment with your identity in order to stay "true to yourself."

Maybe when you look in the mirror after just a few weeks and see your body start to change you'll begin to like enjoy exercise a LOT. It can get addictive, you know. The endorphins that are released when you exercise are like opiates. Ever hear of "runners HIGH?" Ever hear of an "exercise addict?" What would YOU rather be hooked on? Forget about popping pills, Your body is the most exquisite pharmacy on the planet. Exercise is a better fat burner, health creator, energy producer and anti-depressant than any man-made drug will EVER be. Exercise can be fun and FEEL GOOD too.

Human beings were meant to move. Bodies don't lose their function by being used too much and "wearing out", they lose their function by not being used enough and "rusting out." So if the positive benefits of exercise don't motivate you enough, then just picture yourself 10, 20 years from now and imagine what will happen to you if you DON'T start exercising today.

Check out my website, where I have reviewed the top weight loss products.


I hope this is beneficial to you reaching your goals!


Anon 16.03.2013. 08:05

Does anyone else experience a build up of mucus in the throat? This happens to me only after I clean the very very back of my tongue while gagging a little bit. I know that this mucus can cause bad breath. I read that taking a shot of apple cider vinegar may help. Anyway, is this a normal thing that happens?


Admin 16.03.2013. 08:05

haha yes its perfectly normal, don't worry. its called flim, almost everyone gets it, especially during allergy season.


Peter 11.06.2013. 05:55

What are some bad breath cures that really work? I've tried many different product that claim to cure bad breath but none have worked. Does anybody know of bad breath cures that really work?


Admin 11.06.2013. 05:55

Oraltech Labs worked for my bad breath and I think I tried most other products on the market. It?s not easy as the program has you treating all causes of bad breath just in case your suffering from any one cause and don?t know it. However when I had bad breath I lost many job opportunities and all my friends so I was happy to follow the program just to get my life back. Anyway it?s worth it to cure bad breath.


Thirdflooruk 04.12.2008. 11:36

How can someone avoid bad breath in the morning? Even after brushing your teeth thoroughly, not smoke, no drinking, is there anyway of avoiding bad breath and dry mouth first thing in the morning? Mouth wash is meant to make it worse as it dries out your mouth and causes the bad smells right? So what's the solution?
Problem is just mornings. Fine throughout day. Brush my tongue and everything.
I floss like mad and spend 5mins brushing my teeth AND tongue everynight.


Admin 04.12.2008. 11:36

Mouthwash doesn't cause bad smells. If you rinse with mouthwash before you sleep at night it should deter some of your bad breath. When you brush your teeth you should also brush your tongue as well. If these things do not work for you, your problem is probably your diet.


Kevin 01.03.2008. 21:46

I have bad breath and its embarassing me, Anything I can do to avoid it? I have GERD as well , but i have bad breath almost most part of the day. If I brush it will be fresh for 1 hour and back to normal. Can GERD cause continuous bad breath? My teeth are pale yellow to white. Anyway I can get my teeth to be white w/o any sideeffects. This is really embarassing me. I would like some permanant solution instead of using chewing gum always.


Admin 01.03.2008. 21:46

Take mint chewing gum.


ROLAND M 15.05.2008. 18:37

what can i do for my dogs bad breath at home? My dog has the worst breath what can I do to help it get better with home remedies?


Admin 15.05.2008. 18:37

Well, you need to find out what is causing it first. There are diseases that can cause bad breath that need vet treatment, it could also be dental disease, like an abscessed tooth, that would also require vet attention. Make sure you rule out medical reasons first. If its given the all clear from your vet, the folllowing could help:
1. A better quality food. If your dog food has corn, wheat, soy, byproducts, or meat and bone meal, try a better quality food. This it a good site, take a look at the 5 and 6 star foods and give one of those a try: http://www.dogfoodanalysis.com/dog_food_reviews/
2. Raw meaty bones. They're cheap, get them from any local butcher. Beef knuckle bones and marrow bones are good, make sure they still have meat clinging to them. Tearing the meat and connective tissue from the bone will clean between and around their teeth. Keep frozen until you are ready to use them. I give mine a raw bone once a week. Don't use cooked bones, they won't get any of the benefits, and they can splinter. I have heard of people using raw chicken necks the same way with great results as well.
3. Safe chewing items. These include Bully Sticks, Flossies, and beef tendons which are fibrous and not prone to breaking off in chunks. No rawhides, and no Greenies, these can break off in big pieces, causing your dog to choke, or cause intestinal obstructions, plus they really don't do a good job of cleaning their teeth anyway. I personally know people who have had dogs die after choking on a piece of rawhide.


kaz 21.04.2009. 23:44

How do I tell my partner he has really bad breath? My partner has had bad breath for a while now. I've noticed lately he hasn't been brushing every night. He says it makes him gag. I can't stand the smell anymore. I'm trying to stay away from him but at times it is unavoidable. He obviously can't smell it but I can. I have a bit of a problem being confrontational and saying something to him. What should I do?


Admin 21.04.2009. 23:44

Here is my personal story. Maybe it will help you. My wife quit kissing me. I kept asking her and finally she said, "You have bad breath". I was hurt because I could not smell my own bad breath. I got on the internet and learned that most bad breath is caused by bacteria on the tongue. I did not know this. I thought bad breath was caused by not brushing the teeth. Anyway, I found out about OraBrush tongue cleaner. I asked my dentist about OraBrush and he told me to try one. So I have been cleaning my tongue every time I brush my teeth for about 5 months. My wife will kiss me know and we often check each others breath. It has really helped our relationship. Here is the website if you are interested: http://www.orabrush.com


Hot Sticka 16.11.2010. 07:17

How do you know if you wisdom teeth are decaying? ...and if they are decaying, can they cause bad breath?

Hot Sticka

Admin 16.11.2010. 07:17

You will know they are decaying as you will be sore, you may see the blackness on the crown of tooth, the pain may travel along you jawline, ear, head and yes you will get a bad taste and bad breath. The decay also has a chance of spreading to your tooth beside it. This is the most common reason to get wisdom teeth extracted as they serve no real purpose in your mouth , only to chew food but so do your other molars, wisdom teeth more than often will get decayed and cause infection and need to be extracted anyway.


Anonymous 27.05.2006. 18:44

How do you cure bad breath for dogs? My dog has terribly bad breath! Phew! And we tried dog toothpaste, but it just makes her breath worse, because it's poultry flavored! EWW YUCK! How do we cure her bad breath? Please HElP!


Admin 27.05.2006. 18:44

Okay, first understand the causes of bad breath in dogs. Dental problems, stomach or digestive problems and poor quality foods just to name three things. The first thing you should do is take the dog to a vet for a check up to make sure her bad breath is not a health or dental problem. Dental problems left untreated will cause other health problems, including heart problems. If her health and teeth are fine try a premium quality dog food. She should be eating that anyway for her healths sake. California Natural, Solid Gold, Innova, Merrick and Wellness are a few of the best ones. check out http://www.premiumfoodsonline.com/ Good luck


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