Is Bad Breath a Sign of Illness

There are a number of things that can cause bad breath. Things we eat and drink throughout the day can lead to bad breath but it is temporary. Hopefully, once you floss and brush, the bad breath will be gone! On the other hand, chronic bad breath is a different story. The most common cause of bad breath is bacteria though there are some health conditions that can be linked to halitosis. Below are some of the more common causes of halitosis and how you can prevent it.

Oral Hygiene

Poor oral hygiene is the biggest culprit of bad breath. To make sure you are taking care of your mouth, it is important to brush at least twice daily and floss at least once a day. You might consider using oral care products that contain antibacterial agents. Without regular brushing and flossing, bacteria builds up in your mouth, turning into plaque which can lead to periodontal disease and tooth decay.


There are plenty of foods and beverages to cause bad breath: garlic, onions, coffee, and alcohol to name a few. While most realize that these items cause bad breath immediately, they can actually stick with you for days after.

Patients with diets high in protein or sugar or particularly low in carbohydrates can struggle with bad breath. High-sugar diets can lead to halitosis because of the interaction between sugar and bacteria that already exist in the mouth; low-carb diets cause metabolic changes in the body when it does not receive enough carbohydrates; high-protein diets can also cause bad breath if you take in more protein than your body can process, sulfurous (rotten egg smell!) gasses are released.


Stress and anxiety cause a physical reaction within us. Panicked breathing can dry out your mouth and when you are stressed and do not want to eat, it changes your digestion by starving your stomach of enzymes. Without them, undigested food releases odors that make their way up and out.


Some medications have a side effect of dry mouth, causing a decrease in saliva production. Saliva keeps your mouth clean and helps remove food particles so if there is less saliva, it can be harder to keep the mouth clean naturally. Others simply cause bad breath when the chemicals released when medications break down are carried into your bloodstream.

Digestive Problems and Other Illnesses

Bowel disorders, poor digestion, acid reflux, and constipation can all cause bad breath. Patients with sinus or tonsil infections and even certain blood disorders can all have bad breath. Bad breath can even be a sign of a metabolic disorder or in rare instances, a sign of cancer.

Chronic bad breath can be a warning sign that other diseases or illnesses are present. If you are experiencing bad breath on a regular basis, it is important to speak with your dentist to see if they can determine the cause or help you decide if you need to see your general practitioner.

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