Almost everyone deals with bad breath at some point in their lives. And, in some cases, bad breath can persist even with good dental hygiene.
Bad breath has many potential causes. In about 80 to 85 percent trusted Source of cases, the underlying cause originates in the mouth. The rest of the time, factors outside your mouth may be at the root of the problem.
This article will explore some of the potential causes of persistent bad breath even after you’ve brushed your teeth, as well as various treatment options.
Causes of bad breath even after brushing
When you brush your teeth, you prevent the buildup of bacteria on decaying food particles that can get stuck on your teeth or gums. These bacteria produce sulfur compounds that can lead to bad breath, especially if they don’t get brushed away.
But brushing your teeth doesn’t always remedy bad breath. If the underlying cause isn’t in your mouth or if it’s related to mouth dryness, brushing may not get rid of it.
Let’s look at some of the reasons that bad breath may linger even after you’ve brushed your teeth well.
Cavities and gum disease
The bacteria that cause bad breath can hide in cavities in your teeth. This makes it difficult to get rid of the bacteria when you’re brushing your teeth because it’s hidden in places that you can’t reach.
Similarly, these bacteria can hide in deep pockets caused by gum disease.
Your saliva plays many roles in your mouth. It helps break down the food in your mouth and also helps you chew, swallow, and speak.
Additionally, it keeps the bacteria in your mouth at a manageable level, washes food particles out of your mouth, and keeps your mouth hydrated.
When your saliva glands don’t produce enough saliva, it can cause a dry mouth. A dry mouth can result in more bacteria buildup on your teeth. This can cause bad breath and also increases your risk for tooth decay and gum disease.
Many types of medications, tobacco use, and alcohol use can lead to increased mouth dryness.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
GERD, or chronic acid reflux, is a digestive disorder that causes your stomach contents to flow backward into your esophagus.
The regurgitation of undigested food and stomach acid can be a cause of bad breath. GERD can also cause heartburn and a sour or bitter taste in your mouth.
Underlying health conditions
Several underlying health conditions can lead to bad breath. The reason for this is due to chemical changes in your bloodstream or changes to bacteria levels in your body.
Some health conditions that may cause bad breath include:
- kidney failure
- liver failure
- peptic ulcer
- intestinal blockage
Certain foods like onions and garlic may linger on your breath even after you’ve brushed your teeth.
For example, it can take a day or more for garlic breath to go away. Once the garlic reaches your stomach, the oils pass into your bloodstream where they make it into your lungs and breath.
In a 2016 study trusted Source, researchers found that raw apple, raw lettuce, and mint leaves were able to deodorize garlic breath.
Postnasal drip (mucus that drips from the back of your nose into your throat) may also contribute to bad breath. The mucus can attract bacteria which, in turn, may create an odor that causes your breath to smell bad.
Sinus infections, colds, flu, and strep throat are just some of the many possible causes of a postnasal drip.
Smoking can give you bad breath by causing tobacco smoke to linger on your breath. It can also dry out your mouth and raise your risk of developing gum disease. Both dry mouth and gum disease can contribute to bad breath.
Home remedies for bad breath that lingers after brushing
Most of the time, you can treat bad breath at home by improving your dental hygiene. The American Dental Association recommends:
- brushing your teeth twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste
- cleaning between your teeth daily with floss or dental picks
- eating a healthy diet and limiting sugary beverages and snacks
- visiting your dentist regularly for checkups and treatments
- brushing or scraping your tongue
In addition to your oral hygiene, several other home remedies may help treat bad breath. Let’s look at each in more detail.
Baking soda rinse
A 2017 study trusted Source found that a baking soda rinse is a cheap alternative to chlorhexidine and alcohol mouthwashes.
To make a baking soda rinse, mix 2 teaspoons of baking soda with 1 cup of warm water. Swish the mixture in your mouth for about 30 seconds before spitting it out.
Drink more water
If the underlying cause of your bad breath is mouth dryness, increasing how much water you drink each day may help keep your mouth more lubricated.
You can also try chewing on sugar-free gum to stimulate the release of more saliva.
Many people claim that drinking pineapple juice helps them manage their bad breath. You can try either drinking a glass of 100 percent pineapple juice or chewing on a slice of pineapple.
Fennel seeds have been used to freshen breath since ancient times. Try nibbling on a teaspoon of seeds after a meal to help freshen your breath.
When to get medical treatment
If your bad breath persists despite good oral hygiene habits, it’s a good idea to visit your dentist. Your dentist can help you identify signs of gum disease or mouth dryness that might be contributing to your bad breath.
The best treatment option will depend on the underlying cause. For example, if you have gum disease, your dentist can give you a deep cleaning. If GERD is the underlying cause, making changes to your diet and taking over-the-counter medications may help.
The bottom line
Even if you practice good dental hygiene, it’s still possible to develop bad breath.
There are many potential causes of bad breath. Most of the time, the cause originates in your mouth. But in some cases, like with acid reflux or with certain health conditions, the cause of bad breath can originate in a different part of your body.
If you’re already practicing good dental hygiene but still have bad breath after brushing, consider talking with your dentist. They can help you find the root cause and recommend the best treatment option.