Bad breath: Causes + prevention tips + home remedies

Bad breath is not only a social embarrassment but may also pose major risk to your health. Let's find out what causes bad breath and how we can prevent it with a few simple hygiene tips

happy couple close to each other | concept for preventing and healing bad breath

Bad breath, medically known as halitosis, is usually a symptom of an underlying disease. It is typically caused by poor dental hygiene and gum disease. But bad breath may also be the result of throat infection, improper diet, indigestion, inadequate protein digestion, liver malfunction, post-nasal drip, stress, or imbalance of normal flora in the colon.

Causes of bad breath

Bacteria on the back of the tongue

Bacteria found in the mouth accumulate mostly on the tongue, towards the back, and is one causes of bad breath. The bacteria in the mouth feed on food debris and produce Volatile Sulphur Compounds [VSC]. These compounds have the smell of hydrogen sulphide [think rotten eggs]. Bad breath odour can also come from certain foods after they are digested and this odour can emanate from the lungs.

What you eat also affects the air you exhale

  • Certain foods, such as garlic and onion, contribute to bad breath. Once the food is absorbed in the bloodstream, it is transferred to the lungs, where it is expelled in the form of the air you exhale
  • Brushing, flossing and mouthwash will only mask the odour temporarily. Odours continue until the body eliminates the food
  • If you are on a diet or you are fasting, you may develop unpleasant breath due to infrequent eating
  • If you don’t brush and floss daily, tiny particles of food remain in the mouth, collecting bacteria, which can cause bad breath.
  • Food that collects between the teeth, on the tongue, and around the gums can rot, leaving an unpleasant odour.

Dry mouth

Bad breath can also be caused by dry mouth [xerostomia] which occurs when the flow of saliva decreases. Saliva is necessary to cleanse the mouth and remove particles that may cause odour. Dry mouth may also be caused by various medications, salivary gland problems or continuously breathing through the mouth. If you suffer from dry mouth, your dentist may prescribe artificial saliva, or suggest using sugarless candy and increasing your fluid intake.

Underlying health conditions

There are several health conditions of the body which are not directly connected to the mouth but can still cause bad breath. High sugars in a diabetic, for instance, can produce a strong fruit odour. Infection of the sinus or polyps in the nose can also be a source of bad breath. Sometimes indigestion that causes reflux of food can lead to foul odour from in the mouth. Other culprits could be HIV, liver disease and lung infections. If you suspect that your bad breath is due to an underlying condition, consult your doctor immediately.

Tips to prevent bad breath

Close up of a Woman flossing her teeth
Floss regularly to keep bad breath at bay
  • Maintain a high level of oral and dental hygiene. In addition to brushing, it is important to clean between the teeth using dental floss, wood sticks or an inter-dental brush
  • Use a tongue cleaner and clean right to the back of the tongue
  • Use a mouthwash recommended by your dentist. The best time to use it is just before sleeping
  • Drink plenty of fluids; avoid too much coffee, cola and sugar
  • Rinse your mouth after eating milk products, fish and meat
  • Chew sugar-free gum, especially if your mouth feels dry or better still, have an apple
  • Eat fresh, fibrous vegetables; fruits like apples and pears help cleanse your teeth and gums
  • Visit your dentist regularly to diagnose any oral health condition in time.

Home remedies for bad breath


Avocado is far superior to any mouth lotion or remedies for this condition. Just eat a small piece of raw avocado if you suffer from bad breath.


A tea made with fenugreek seeds helps in neutralising bad breath. The tea is prepared by adding one teaspoon of seeds in half-litre of water and allowing it to simmer for 15 minutes over a low flame. Then just strain and drink up.


Two cups of water should be boiled and several sprigs of parsley, coarsely chopped, should be steeped in this water along with two or three whole cloves or a quarter teaspoon of ground cloves. This mixture should be stirred occasionally while cooling. Then strain and gargle with this liquid several times a day.

Raw juice

All fruit and vegetable juices are beneficial in the treatment of bad breath. Juices from green vegetables are especially useful. Make sure you don’t add any sweetener to your juices.

A well-balanced diet

People suffering from bad breath should take a well-balanced diet consisting of seeds, nuts, grains, vegetables, and fruits, with emphasis on raw vegetables, and fruits. Avoid refined carbohydrate foods, such as white sugar; white bread and products made from refined flour. Go easy on meat and eggs as well.

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Grazilia Almeida-Khatri
Trained as a physician, Dr Grazilia Almeida-Khatri is a wellness coach and consultant. She endorses yoga as a way of life and conducts wellness and yoga retreats for individuals and corporates. She is also trained in Pilates by Michael King, who is based in the UK. Dr Grazilia is a practitioner of the Body Mirror System of healing as taught by Sir Martin Brofman. She lives in Pune, India and offers consultations in person and online.


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