Beautiful Asian woman covering her mouth with her hands

Everyone has had an episode of bad breath at least once. Maybe you just woke up, or you had extra servings of garlic rice for lunch. But when you notice that it doesn’t seem to be going away and starts affecting you personally and socially, there might be other causes that you need to address. 

According to Harvard Health, most cases of halitosis are associated with oral hygiene issues, such as gingivitis (gum inflammation) or periodontitis (gum infection). However, it could also indicate serious underlying conditions. Here are some causes of bad breath that you might not even realize. 

Poor Diet Means Bad Breath 

Garlic, onions, and other strong-scented or bold-flavored foods can affect your breath, but this is a minor problem that a pop of mint can quickly fix. One less obvious, diet-related cause of bad breath, however, is being hungry, based on research from the University of Michigan.

Chewing food increases saliva in the mouth, which helps manage the onset of bacteria. When you skip a meal, though, you don’t produce as much saliva, which invites bacteria to grow, hence halitosis. What's more, when you don’t eat enough, your body turns to fat for energy, and when fat is broken down, it creates the not-so-pleasant-smelling ketone, which is released through the mouth. 

Check If Your Mouth Is Dry

 Dry mouth can be caused by sleeping with your mouth open, or it can be a side effect of an ailment.

Indeed, not enough eating can cause the mouth to go dry, but some other foods and drinks can trigger this as well, such as coffee and alcohol. However, dry mouth, otherwise known as xerostomia, can also be a symptom of other situations.

Over-the-counter medicine, like decongestants and antihistamines, as well as prescription drugs, can cause saliva production to go down. It can also be a side effect of certain cancer treatments or nerve damage in the jaw area. Even the sweltering heat and keeping your mouth open for an extended period, such as when you’re asleep, can cause a dry mouth. 

Something’s Bubbling in Your Stomach 

The root of halitosis could stem from much deeper than the oral area. An article published in the journal National Center for Biotechnology Information found a link between acid reflux, otherwise known as Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease or GERD.

Excess acid in your stomach can produce a sour odor that could reach the breath. Other symptoms of GERD include chest pain, coughing, hoarseness, and a bad taste in the mouth. GERD patients may also experience acid erosion in their teeth as well as throat inflammation. 

It’s Coming From Your Throat

Throat problems, whether they’re caused by GERD, can also influence the quality of your breath. For example, having a post-nasal drip can set off halitosis. When mucus, which traps all sorts of foreign particles in your nasal region, reaches and builds up in your throat, those impurities eventually reach your tongue and contribute to bad breath, according to a study published in the International Journal of Oral Science.

Strep throat, or other similar bacterial infections, can also lead to unsavory mouth odor. 

Your Brushing Technique Needs Work

Flossing isn’t an optional step in oral hygiene. Make sure to floss before brushing or after meals.

You’re always reminded to brush your teeth at least twice a day after meals, but how you brush your teeth is just as important as the number of times you do it—maybe even more. 

First, don’t skip flossing. This crucial step removes tiny food particles lodged in the deepest recesses of your teeth. When left alone, these food particles not only attract bacteria, they can break down and release a foul odor. Flossing also cleans plaque between the teeth and allows you to brush them better.

When you brush, start with the outer side of your teeth. Move your toothbrush either in up and down or circular motions. Being gentler and more precise is better than brushing hard and fast. Make sure you cover every tooth. Use back and forth strokes for the chewing surfaces. When you move on to the inner side of your teeth, a less cumbersome way would be to sweep the brush from the bottom to the top.

Another overlooked step is the tongue. If you don’t clean your tongue properly, it can become a breeding ground for bad bacteria. Scrape from the throat area to the tip. A clean tongue should be a nice pinkish color and free from white spots.

All of this usually takes about two minutes, so if your toothbrushing time is significantly shorter than this, you might want to review your technique.

When it comes to bad breath, your first line of defense is a fast-acting toothpaste that can eliminate not just bad odor but the bacteria in your mouth that causes it. The closeup All Around Fresh Soothing Menthol Toothpaste is infused with zinc antibacterial mouthwash as well as deep-cleaning silica that removes plaque and fluoride to fight against cavities. 

When it comes to chronic halitosis, however, don’t hold your breath. Consult a dentist or doctor when your bad breath seems to be much more than toothpaste can handle.