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Some Things to Know About Bad Breath

University of Alberta Bad Breath Research Clinic

Dr. F.-Michael Eggert, DDS, MRCD(c), MSc, PhDcantab
Department of Dentistry
Fac. of Medicine and Dentistry
Univ. of Alberta, Edmonton AB, Canada


Things that Can Make You Get Bad Breath

What Happens

Something To Try


More than one of these can be combined




  • Smoking is a big one!


dries your mouth, changes the lining of your mouth

quitting would help


  • Stomach Problems Hiatus hernia

sometimes your stomach can be smelled on your breath.

valve at top of stomach does not close completely and you get reflux

sometimes treatment with antibiotics can produce a smell from your stomach

eat a bit of something (eg. a cracker) when hungry

medical referral, medications


whenever I've encountered this in people, it seems to go away about 2 weeks after stopping the antibiotic


  • Respiratory problems

  • or sometimes a chronic post-nasal drip

Infections of lungs or of upper respiratory passages

Medical Referral

Sometimes breath treatment can help patients who have a chronic post-nasal drip with their breath.


  • Tonsil problems

Chronic inflammation/infection produces enlarged tonsils

Medical Referral

Sometimes breath treatment can help these patients with their breath.


  • Dentures

Poor denture hygiene

Dentures cut down access of cleansing flow of saliva to lining of mouth

Follow instructions for cleaning dentures

Leave your dentures out when sleeping


  • Problems with Your Gums or other forms of Stomatitis

Infections around your teeth can cause smelly breath: one well-known infection produces a 'metallic' odour and can be associated with considerable pain.

Improved Oral Home Care and Dental Referral


  • Dry Mouth

Some medical conditions cause dry mouth: one of these is Sjögren's Syndrome

Some medications cause dry mouth: tricyclic anti-depressants fall into this category

Dental and/or Medical Referral

Dental and/or Medical Referral


  • Psychological problems

We must get this one out into the open! Some people are unnecessarily concerned about bad breath when they do not actually have detectable bad breath.

  • Stop just worrying, get things checked out
  • Breath that can be smelled first thing in the morning may be undetectable after normal oral hygiene
  • Not everybody gets close enough to you to smell anything on your breath
  • Acquired metabolic abnormalities

Some medically-important conditions are associated with breath smells:

  • diabetes can produce a ketone (nailpolish remover) breath odour
  • liver or kidney diseases can produce fish-like breath odours

These problems require a medical referral and medical assessment.

  • Inborn metabolic variations

Altered choline metabolism can lead to a fish-like breath odour associated with trimethylamine.

Sometimes this problem shows up as a taste rather than a breath odour.

Since this condition is really quite rare, you are unlikely to have it!

Avoid eating too much of choline-rich foods like eggs.


NOTE WELL! This is not an exhaustive listing, there are ALWAYS other conditions and combinations of conditions. That's why we continue to do research!

NOTE WELL! Do-it-yourself treatment is not always the best medicine.

The BOTTOM LINE is to seek professional advice when things do not get better!

© 1997 - 2004 F.-Michael Eggert, all rights reserved

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Last updated 08/Sep/2004


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