Why Does My Breath Smell?

No one wants to suffer from bad breath, so store shelves overflow with products like mouthwash, mints, and gum. But, even when they leave you feeling minty fresh for a moment, they’re only a temporary solution.

Our dentists are often asked about bad breath at Sargon Dental, with offices in Encino and West Hollywood, California, and Pleasant Grove, Utah. Here they break down the causes of this unwanted condition and what you can do to eliminate it. 

Bad breath basics

There’s a reason why mints and mouthwashes don’t offer long-term solutions: They don’t address what’s causing your bad breath. These odors can develop for a few reasons, but they often originate in your mouth.

Poor dental hygiene

One of the main causes of bad breath involves bad oral hygiene. When you have a combination of bacteria and decaying food particles in your mouth, they release an unpleasant odor. This can also occur if you have dentures you don’t properly clean daily.

Gum disease

Ignoring bacteria, plaque, and tartar build-up in your mouth can cause gum disease. This serious oral infection affects the soft tissue in your mouth, leading to bad breath, loose teeth, and tooth loss.

Dry mouth

Believe it or not, saliva actually helps to keep your mouth clean and decrease odor. If you don’t have enough saliva, it can cause issues with your oral health — including bad breath. You can experience dry mouth for various reasons, including salivary gland conditions or taking certain medications.


It’s no surprise that cigarettes smell bad, but they can also dry out your mouth and create bad breath. Smoking also increases your risk of gum disease, so there’s never been a better time to quit.

When bad breath doesn’t start in your mouth

While the worst breath starts in your mouth, that’s not always true. Other culprits include:

Your diet

When you consume foods with strong odors, like onions and garlic, your stomach absorbs its oils during digestion. From there, they enter your bloodstream and travel to your lungs. This process creates an odor that can impact your breath for up to 72 hours.

Sinus or throat conditions

If you have an infection, you can experience bad breath. Common conditions that lead to breath odor include:

You can also develop bad breath from tonsil stones or postnasal drainage.

Certain diseases

Sometimes, unpleasant breath can indicate a health condition, like diabetes, kidney disease, or gastroesophageal reflux disorder (GERD). These conditions usually cause fairly distinct odors, which can give clues to the cause. For example, uncontrolled diabetes often causes breath to have a fruity fragrance. However, when you suffer from kidney or liver failure, it could have a more fishy aroma.

Resolving bad breath

Fortunately, there are solutions for bad breath once you know its cause. 

Our dentists can help diagnose what’s causing your symptoms during a dental visit and make personalized recommendations for your treatment. Sometimes, a simple cleaning could be all you need to resolve your odor issues. In others, you may need treatment for more serious dental problems, like gum disease.

If it doesn’t seem like your bad breath is coming from your teeth or mouth, we can also direct you to a physician to rule out other underlying conditions.

Ready to find solutions for your bad breath? Schedule an appointment today by phone or online at the Sargon Dental location most convenient for you.


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