Ask the Dentist: Bad Breath (Halitosis) 101 - What? Why? How?


Bad breath. How do I get rid of it? What causes bad breath even after brushing? How do I know if I have bad breath? Bad breath, which is also known as halitosis, is one of the most common and embarrassing problems a person can develop.  Some studies suggest that it can affect up to half the general population. Bad breath can have a strong impact on one’s self esteem, it can adversely affect your connection to other people, causing social and personal isolation, decreased quality of life and may indicate the presence of a more severe underlying disease.  One research institute even conducted a large survey which suggested that 71 per cent of people said that bad breath lowers their confidence, while an even larger percentage of people saying that bad breath is a deal-breaker on a first date. An Australian Dental Association (ADA) study found that bad breath and the sight of decayed (rotten/carious) teeth were by far the biggest turn-offs on a first date for 83% of people. (In comparison, body odour was a lot further behind at just 5%). So don’t wait until someone keeps their distance from you whenever you open your mouth.

Even though bad breath or halitosis is rarely a life threatening problem, it is a health or diet condition that needs to be identified and treated so that we can improve our health and mental wellbeing. What we want to do in this article is to help you know when you have bad breath, know how to identify the causes, and then know how best to treat it.

At Capstone Dental Seven Hills, we will stand by your side in eliminating bad breath and a healthier body! What’s also important to understand is that there is no single cure or silver bullet treatment for bad breath, so the treatment will really depend on the cause.


Signs and symptoms of bad breath - 4 easy ways to know if I have bad breath

If you’re like most people, the majority of the time, you won’t know if you have bad breath. But you will definitely know if the person next to you or speaking to you has bad breath. Some studies show that a lot of people don’t know if they have bad breath and they don’t know what causes bad breath. Just like you are unlikely to tell someone they have bad breath, most people are considerate like yourself, will not be telling you that your breath is bad. But the thought of having bad breath ourselves can be very embarrassing. So if you’re not feeling comfortable with asking someone, here are some other ways you can try to work it out yourself. So what’s the way to check if I have bad breath?

  1. The easiest way to know for certain is to ask someone you trust, hopefully someone with a good nose because people with blocked noses can’t really smell properly.

  2. Lick your tongue onto your wrist, let it dry for a few seconds, and then smell where you licked

  3. Smell your dental floss after you’ve done your flossing.

  4. Get a tongue scraper (tongue cleaner) from your local Woolies, Coles or pharmacy and use it. Then smell the scraper.

If you’re still uncertain, come to see our friendly and trusted dentists at Capstone Dental Seven Hills, we’ll check it out for you and help you address your concern!

there is no single cure or silver bullet treatment for bad breath, so the treatment will really depend on the cause.

What are the causes of Bad Breath?

There are many factors for bad breath and halitosis, and these include:

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  • Strong smelling foods or drinks (e.g. garlic, onion, spiced foods, coffee, etc). In addition, fasting or crash-dieting can cause bad breath as the body breaks down fat and releases ketones, which can be smelled, according to the UK’s National Health Service.

  • Poor oral care and hygiene: If you don’t brush and floss daily or if you don’t do it well, food and plaque remains in your mouth, if it’s left between your teeth or along your gums for too long, it can form into hard plaque also known as tartar or calculus which is glued onto the gumline or gaps of your teeth.  This can be REALLY smelly if not dealt with

  • Dentures that aren’t cleaned properly or don’t fit snugly can also trap odor-causing bacteria and food particles.

  • Various forms of smoking such cigarettes and cigars: smoking causes its own unpleasant mouth odor. Smokers and oral tobacco users are also more likely to have gum disease, another source of bad breath.

  • Foods that remain in the mouth and stuck along the gumline or in between your teeth

  • Dry mouth is another common reason. A dry mouth occurs if you haven’t been drinking enough water or if you have been sleeping or travelling, or any other case in which your body slows down saliva production. Alcoholic drinks can cause the mouth to become dry. Dry mouth can also be caused by strenuous workouts, breathing through your mouth, and some diseases and medications.

  • Throat infections and/or tonsillitis including tonsil stones

  • Certain types of medication that reduce the production of saliva

  • Untreated tooth decay (holes and cavities), periodontal disease (gum disease), or abscesses (infections)

  • Some respiratory infections can give rise to bad breath. You may want to discuss this with your medical GP or specialist

How do I get rid of my bad breath? What’s the treatment for bad breath? How do I treat bad breath?

Like we mentioned earlier, the treatment for bad breath will depend on the cause. In a lot of cases, a regular professional dental clean will be recommended to eliminate the plaque and tartar (calculus) build up that causes the bad smell and odour. But here are some quick steps to eliminate bad breath at home

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Home Remedies to Stop Bad Breath. Easy steps to stop bad breath at home

  • Brush your teeth twice a day and floss at least once a day. Remember to brush gently into your gum line

  • If you wear dentures (plates or false teeth), remove them at night and clean with a non abrasive toothbrush and cleaning paste to get rid of bacterial buildup from food and drink.

  • Hydration. Hydration. Hydration. Drink plenty of water especially after meals and swirl cold water around your mouth. This can be helpful to freshen your morning breath

  • Take note of the different types of foods you eat. If there are particular foods you are not sure about, talk to us about it at your next dental visit.

  • Take note of the ALL the different medications and supplements you take, as some medications can play a role in bad breath.

  • Replace your toothbrush at least four times a year.

  • Use a tongue scraper or spoon to scrape your tongue at the end of each day to help remove any bacteria, fungi, and dead cells that can cause bad breath.

  • Use mouth rinse (mouthwash) that doesn’t contain alcohol i.e. alcohol free mouth rinse. We always say if you brush and floss well, mouth rinse isn’t needed to clean your teeth but it can definitely help to give you a fresh breath

  • Chewing on fragrant spices such as cloves, fennel seeds, or aniseed can be safe in small quantities. They have antiseptic qualities which can help fight halitosis-causing bacteria.

  • Eating citrus fruits can freshen the breath and citric acid can help to stimulate the production of saliva and fight bad breath.

  • If you don’t mind the taste yourself, you can try chewing a sprig of a fresh chlorophyll-containing plant such as basil, parsley, mint, or coriander (cilantro).

In a lot of cases, a regular professional dental clean will be recommended to eliminate the plaque and tartar (calculus) build up that causes the bad smell and odour.

What causes bad breath even after brushing? What Can Your Dentist Do To Help with Bad Breath? Comprehensive steps to eliminate bad breath at the dentist

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  • It could be due to tartar build up causing permanent bad breath until you remove the tartar from a dental clean - that is why we recommend regular 6 monthly check up and cleans.

  • It could be from a dirty tongue - you should brush your tongue weekly to clean plaque off it. Especially if you’re a smoker

  • It could be from bad stomach acids - please see your Medical GP or specialist to investigate this

  • It could be from tonsil stones which you can’t easily get rid of without seeing an Ear Nose Throat specialist to treat your tonsils

  • If you have tooth decay (caries) or a broken tooth, your dentist may recommend a dental tooth filling to remove the decay and remove the at the same time restore the health of your teeth.

  • If you need help with your oral hygiene (brushing and flossing), book in a dental clean with us and remember to ask your dentist to demonstrate the proper flossing and brushing techniques

  • Regular visits to your dentist, coupled with good home care and healthy diet, are essential keys to improving the health of your teeth and gums, including your overall wellbeing. At Capstone Dental Seven Hills, we suggest that you visit us every six months to maintain a healthy oral environment and keep your mouth free from bacteria and odour.

The Capstone Dental Seven Hills Advantage

At Capstone Dental Seven Hills, our treatments and services are 100% personalised and tailored to you and your situation. Our dentists are highly motivated and professionally accredited practitioners from Australian universities.

As well as our dentists, the supporting staff at Capstone Dental Seven Hills are extremely dedicated and experienced to guarantee that each visit with us is as pleasant and comfortable as possible.

NO GAP (GAP FREE) Dental Cleans

For all patients with private health insurance, we can offer general Check-up, Scale and Clean, X-rays and Fluoride treatment. Find out about our NO GAP Offer

Call (02) 8605 1696 or visit us at Shop 55, Seven Hills Plaza, 224 Prospect Highway, Seven Hills, NSW 2147. Email us at