This age-old problem has numerous causes, but in an estimated 85% of the cases, the odor originates from the mouth. In the remainder of the cases, the nose, tonsils, and other ailments contribute to bad breath. Treatment for bad breath must address the source of the problem. When the mouth is the cause of bad breath, food, oral habits and dental health should be examined first. Foods or beverages such as garlic, onions, and coffee, and habits such as smoking and chewing tobacco can contribute to bad breath. Dental problems such as broken teeth that trap food, infected teeth that abscess, or untreated periodontal (gum) disease are common causes of bad breath.
If the teeth and gums are healthy, the tongue is the most likely culprit. The back, top part of the tongue is a common and overlooked cause of bad breath. There is speculation that chronic postnasal drip that collects on the tongue becomes infiltrated with bacteria causing odor. Tongue brushing or the use of a tongue-scraper can often alleviate this source. People who wear dentures without taking them out at night or cleaning them properly can have bad breath.
Excellent oral hygiene, brushing at least three times a day and flossing once a day is essential to fighting bad breath. It may be beneficial to chew sugarless gum and drink water throughout the day to moisten the mouth, which may reduce mouth odor. If odor persists after the teeth, gums, and tongue are clean and healthy, a prescription mouth rinse such as Peridex can be prescribed. If none of these measures succeed, a medical doctor should be consulted to explore other potential causes.