Advanced Cosmetic & Family Dentistry

Causes and Cures for the Oral Health Symptom of Halitosis, or Bad Breath

By Dr. Brett Silverman | Jan 25, 2024 | General Oral Care
Causes and Cures for the Oral Health Symptom of Halitosis, or Bad Breath

It’s not polite to tell people outside your nuclear family that they have bad breath. It feels like an insult, rather than a simple observation. Carrying on a conversation with someone who has foul breath can be quite uncomfortable. What if your breath smells? If no one confirms your self-diagnosis, how can you know for sure? The symptom of halitosis, AKA bad breath, can have harmless causes, but in some cases, it’s a sign of more serious problems.

In today’s blog, the team at Advanced Cosmetic & Family Dentistry in Alpharetta, GA, will explain many aspects of halitosis. You’ll learn:

  • Causes of halitosis
  • Treatments for halitosis
  • Introduction to gum disease
  • How to schedule an oral health exam

Do you have the symptom of halitosis? Schedule an oral health exam with Dr. Silverman or Dr. Morton now. Call 678-389-9000. By evaluating your teeth, gums, and overall oral health, the dentist can confirm whether cavities,  gum disease, or something else is at the root of your halitosis. In some cases, all that’s needed to alleviate halitosis is improving your oral health and adjusting your daily oral home care routine. We want to be your partners in this journey because your good health is our priority.

Causes of and Treatment for Halitosis

The symptom of halitosis can indicate a number of possible oral and overall health issues. Some you can change, some require a dentist’s treatment, and a few should be diagnosed and treated by a medical doctor. 

Causes of bad breath include but are not limited to:

  • Cause: Eating certain foods Onions, garlic, curry, fish, cheese, and other odiferous foods smell bad before you eat them, and they leave their foul odor in your mouth.
  • Treatment: Brush and floss your teeth, and rinse your mouth with water. You may temporarily mask the odor with mints or gum, but these will not rid your mouth of what’s causing the smell. Be sure to brush your tongue!


  • Cause: Smoking and other tobacco use increase the synthesis of VFCs, or volatile sulfur compounds, which cause halitosis.
  • Treatment: Stop using tobacco. If you’ve failed at this feat, talk with your dentist or physician for recommendations that should help you quit tobacco.


  • Cause: Not cleaning dentures thoroughly allows bacteria to build up, just as it does on natural teeth. These oral bacteria emit a bad odor.
  • Treatment: Review and apply the best method for cleaning your dentures. Talk with the dentist if you’re uncertain about how to clean and maintain your dentures. If you forget to clean them, set a daily reminder on your phone, Alexa, or Siri.
  • Dry mouth, or xerostomia is caused by some medications, as well as by tobacco use. Dry mouth is a medical condition in which the mouth has poor saliva flow. Since saliva cleans the mouth, lack of it allows bacteria to thrive, thus leading to oral health issues and bad breath.
  • Treatment: If certain medications cause your xerostomia, talk with your doctor about alternative medications. Stop using tobacco. Also, you can chew sugarless gums or mints to prompt saliva production or use over-the-counter artificial saliva spray or gel.
  • Dental issues like cavities, tooth infections, and abscesses are caused by bad oral bacteria. If you have oral health issues, visit the dentist for restorations and periodontal treatment, if necessary. Also, brush your teeth with a soft-bristled toothbrush morning and evening. Floss once a day before brushing. Use a tongue scraper or your toothbrush to thoroughly clean the surface of your tongue, as well. Then attend 6-month checkups and cleanings at Advanced Family and Cosmetic Dentistry in Alpharetta. 
  • Periodontal, or gum, disease ranges from mild gingivitis to acute advanced periodontitis. Gum disease is the leading cause of adult tooth loss and increases the risk of developing heart, lung, and cognitive issues. Gum disease can also cause pregnancy complications and premature birth.
  • Treatment: If you’re diagnosed with gum disease, we will recommend a deep dental cleaning. Deep cleanings involve scaling the teeth roots to remove plaque and tartar, then smoothing rough areas on teeth roots to reduce the opportunity for plaque to build up below the gum line. 
  • Respiratory or sinus infection, bronchitis, and postnasal drip are infections that can foster the symptom of halitosis. Talk with your physician about treatment.
  • Diabetes is interlaced with oral health.  We know that gum disease causes diabetes complications. High blood sugar raises the sugars in saliva. Because bad oral bacteria feast on sugars, patients with high blood sugar may see an increase in cavities and other oral infections.
  • Treatment: Work with your physician to gain control of your blood sugar and follow the recommended diet. Your oral and overall health depend on it!
  • Gastrointestinal, liver, or kidney disorders can leave evidence in your mouth by way of ulcers, gum erosion, dry mouth, and tongue abnormalities.
  • Treatment: Talk with your physician about your inability to rid your mouth of halitosis, as well as your other bodily symptoms. Running tests and evaluating symptoms will help your doctor diagnose your condition.

Introduction to Gum Disease

Because gum disease afflicts about half of the over-30 population and 70% of those over age 65, it’s a widespread concern. Gum disease most often stems from improper daily oral hygiene. Built-up plaque turns into non-soluble tartar when teeth aren’t brushed and flossed daily. Bacterial plaque and tartar irritate sensitive gum tissue, and bad oral bacteria eat away the connective tissues that hold gums tightly to the base of teeth. Pockets of infection, called periodontal pockets, form. 

If these pockets are not treated with a deep dental cleaning, periodontal pockets deepen. Teeth become loose and ultimately fall out. Gum disease is a chronic condition, so it can flare up if good oral hygiene isn’t part of the patient’s daily routine.

Aging, use of an albuterol inhaler, some medications and treatments, smoking, and excessive alcohol consumption increase a person’s risk for developing gum disease. Hormone fluctuations during adolescence, pregnancy, and menopause also contribute to the development of gum disease.

How to Schedule an Oral Health Exam

If you’ve noticed the symptom of halitosis in yourself or a family member, schedule an appointment with our family dental office in Alpharetta, GA. Call 678-389-9000 today. Our gentle, compassionate team will provide excellent service and care. 

At your appointment, the dentist will determine whether your bad breath stems from an oral health issue, and if so, he’ll suggest treatment options. Our dentists and team are always eager to share oral health information, so please ask questions. We want to help you enjoy fresh breath, great oral health, and a smile that lasts throughout your lifetime!