Can dry mouth cause bad breath (halitosis)?

Bad breath (halitosis) is an unpleasant condition that can be cause for embarrassment. If you don't brush and floss daily, 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 odor. 

Bad breath can also be caused by dry mouth (xerostomia), which occurs when the flow of saliva decreases. Tobacco products also cause bad breath. If you use tobacco, ask your dentist for tips on kicking the habit.

Maintaining good oral health is essential to reducing bad breath. Schedule regular dental visits for a professional cleaning and checkup. If you think you have constant bad breath, keep a log of the foods you eat and make a list of medications you take. Some medications may play a role in creating mouth odors. Let your dentist know if you've had any surgery or illness since your last appointment.

Brush twice a day with fluoride toothpaste to remove food debris and plaque. Brush your tongue, too. Once a day, use floss to clean between teeth.
Dry mouth, also known as xerostomia, is a common cause of bad breath (halitosis). Without enough saliva to wash away food particles and dead cells, bacteria can colonize your tongue, gums, and cheeks, where they promote tooth decay and produce foul-smelling sulfur compounds. Dry mouth is often a side effect of medications, so your doctor may adjust your dosage or switch drugs to reduce dry mouth symptoms.
Joan Haizlip, MSN
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
Yes, having a dry mouth can cause bad breath. It's important to drink plenty of liquids during the day, especially water. Water can flush out your mouth and help your mouth get rid of the bacteria that can grow and multiply. Bacterial growth can also contribute to halitosis.

One of the largest causes of bad breath is having a dry mouth. Increasing water intake will help to irrigate and flush out the offending bacteria. Without the proper salivary flow and ingestion of water, bacteria will remain on the teeth. This is like trying to run a dishwasher with too little water. Just as the food will stick to the dishes, bacteria will cling to teeth.


Taking stock of one's complete medical history is also important. There are more than 200 prescription medications that contribute to the problem of dry mouth.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.