What's Causing My Bad Breath?

Bad breath, also known as halitosis, is one of the most common reasons people seek dental care. It’s estimated that 1 in every 4 people have chronic bad breath. 

Even if you’ve tried every breath-freshening product on the market, your bad breath can still make people stand at a distance. That’s because the only way to get rid of bad breath is to address what’s causing it. 

Dr. Thomas Hernandez and our team at Heritage Dental in Houston, Texas, specialize in identifying the source of your bad breath. We’re taking a closer look at what’s behind the stink and giving you the tools you need to freshen your breath for good. 

Causes of bad breath

Bad breath almost always starts in your mouth, but there are numerous possible causes. Here are a few of the most common sources of bad breath. 

Dental hygiene

Brushing and flossing twice a day is more than just a rule of thumb — it’s crucial to clear away food and other bacteria that sit on your teeth and gum line and turn your breath sour. 

Furthermore, not keeping up a diligent dental hygiene routine can cause plaque build-up, leading to odor-causing oral health conditions, including tooth decay and gum disease.

To prevent or reduce bad breath, make sure you:

In addition to maintaining your oral health at home, you must schedule regular dental checkups — there’s no substitute for a professional cleaning from Dr. Hernandez and our team. 


As you chew, the process of breaking down your food increases bacteria build-up in your mouth and makes your breath smell. Eating strong-smelling foods like garlic, onions, and spices causes your breath to smell right after you’ve eaten and long after you’ve left the table. As you digest those fragrant foods, they enter your bloodstream and are carried to your lungs, impacting your breath. 

Using tobacco products

You can add bad breath to the long list of ways smoking impacts your health. Not only do the smoke and chemicals from tobacco products cause bad breath, but you’re more likely to develop gum disease if you are a smoker, which can add to your bad breath.

Dry mouth

Your mouth is moist for a reason. Saliva is a crucial part of your body’s natural cleaning process, and it helps remove many of the particles and hidden bacteria that cause bad breath. Without it, your mouth dries out, creating a breeding ground for odor-causing particles. 

This is why you might notice that your breath is particularly pungent in the morning — also known as “morning breath.” Your mouth naturally dries out as you sleep, especially if you sleep with your mouth open. Some people have problems with their salivary glands and can’t produce saliva on their own, which leads to bad breath, among other oral health problems. 

You can avoid dry mouth and the accompanying bad breath by drinking plenty of water, avoiding tobacco products, and sucking on candy or chewing gum to stimulate saliva production.


Certain medications cause bad breath by contributing to dry mouth or releasing foul-smelling chemicals after being broken down by your body. 

Infections and other conditions in your mouth

If you’ve just had an oral surgery procedure or you have a wound in your mouth, you can quickly develop an infection and experience bad breath. 

Similarly, mouth sores and chronic inflammation in your nose, sinuses, or throat that lead to postnasal drip can contribute to your bad breath. There’s also a condition called tonsilloliths that occurs when small stones form in your tonsils, and the bacteria from them produces a foul odor. 

Other health conditions

Your bad breath might also be a by-product of another health condition, such as cancer, metabolic disorders, or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). 

Crash dieting

You might love the way your low-carb or fasting diet helps you lose weight, but the ketones your body produces as it breaks down fat are strong-smelling chemicals that can cause bad breath. 

Addressing your bad breath

Bad breath is a problem that impacts your oral health and your emotional health, so Dr. Hernandez starts by accurately identifying what’s causing your bad breath before creating a treatment plan. 

Depending on your needs, he recommends special mouthwashes and toothpaste that are designed to fight bacteria. He also addresses bad breath by thoroughly cleaning your teeth and treating any signs of gum disease. 

If you’d like more information or have concerns about bad breath, request an appointment online or over the phone today.  

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