Getting to the Root of Halitosis

A man with halitosis feature image

Bad breath is medically known as ‘Halitosis’ and according to the Victorian state government, 2.4% of Australia’s adult population suffers from it.

Although it is not infectious, bad breath can point towards deeper issues; all of which are fortunately curable.

Let’s have a detailed look into these issues and what you can do about them.

Reasons for Halitosis

There are many reasons why a person can suffer from chronic bad breath.

Even after brushing your teeth, the smell can linger and the most common reason is bacteria.

Bacteria are found everywhere, including in our mouths.

Sulphur-producing bacteria residing on our tongues and throats are the primary cause of halitosis.

Bacteria in the mouth

Bacteria in our mouths begin to metabolise protein at a high rate which leads to the release of Volatile Sulfur Compounds (VSC).

The odour produced resembles the smell of rotten eggs, causing halitosis.

Other possible reasons contributing to chronic bad breath are:

6 Reasons for Halitosis

  • Dry mouth – due to the intake of medicines or a medical condition.
  • Smoking – due to a lack of oxygen in the mouth.
  • Dental factors – poor oral hygiene and mouth infections can lead to the culmination of foul odour-producing bacteria.
  • Teeth cavities.
  • Chipped or broken fillings.
  • Gum diseases – gingivitis.

Consumption of certain foods such as onions and garlic can cause temporary bad breath.

Cauliflower is another vegetable that lends to gas build-up in the body and short-lived bad breath.

As age progresses our body tends to become less efficient and can lead to many diseases affecting the digestive system or our respiratory system.

Ingredients Garlic and onions

Halitosis can also serve as an indicator of more serious health issues, such as:

  • Chronic sinusitis – affecting the throat, ears, and nose, this can be due to severe allergies or infectious bacteria. The continuous phlegm build-up creates an unpleasant odour.
  • Digestive issues – Due to improper digestion resulting in acid or bile reflex

Kidney failure, carcinoma, unpredictable metabolic patterns, and biochemical disorders can result in halitosis as well.

As with every problem occurring in the human body, there are some common precursors to halitosis that you can keep a look out for on a day to day basis.

Visible symptoms that you can keep a look out for include:

  • Plaque build-up around the teeth or behind the front teeth.
  • Needing to spit all the time and the production of thick saliva.
  • Excess mucus in the throat or nose.
  • A persisting bitter, sour, metallic taste.
  • Bad morning breath and a burning tongue.
  • A white film on the back of the tongue even after brushing.

The presence of halitosis can damage a person’s self-esteem and change their personality.

Chronic bad breath can lead to people choosing to speak less and even stay away from social gatherings to save themselves the embarrassment.

A woman worried about her bad breath

Treating Halitosis

Since halitosis is just a surface symptom of a more significant cause, its treatment must aim to fix the underlying problem which causes bad breath.

A few preventative measures that you can take to combat bad breath are:

Drink an Adequate Amount of Water to Avoid Dehydration

60% of the human body is made up of water, and even a 2% decrease can lead to your body having to work overtime.

Dehydration decreases the amount of saliva produced in the mouth which usually helps keep bacteria at bay.

A glass of water

Avoid Frequent Intake of Acidic and Sugary Foods to Avoid Plaque

The yellowish substance that sticks to the sides of teeth can harden over time and become plaque.

Plaque is simply an excess of bacteria in the mouth and can be prevented by brushing or rinsing the mouth properly after meals.

Maintain an Oral Hygiene Routine Consisting of Brushing, Flossing, and Gargling

Over the duration of the day, we tend to consume many food substances that can stick to the nooks and crannies of your teeth.

Categorised as incisors, canines, molars, and premolars; each tooth has its shape, and it is not always possible to reach every angle with your toothbrush.

Excessive brushing can lead to weak and bleeding gums, which is why a hygiene regime alternating between brushing, flossing and using mouthwash will prove to be most beneficial.

A lady brushing her teeth

Using Mouthwash to Mitigate Infection-causing Bacteria

The act of rinsing the back of the mouth is known as gargling.

There are plenty of mouthwashes available at the supermarket or chemist.

But you can also opt for natural mouthwashes and gargling concoctions.

Warm salt water is one of the ways.

A lady gargling

Salt is chemically known as sodium chloride (NaCl) which is neutral by nature and helps neutralise pH levels in the mouth.

You can also add two spoonfuls of apple cider vinegar (ACV) in warm water.

The acidic nature of ACV makes it difficult for bacteria to thrive in highly acidic environments.

Apple cider vinegar

Gently Brushing the Tongue to Remove White Film

It is generally difficult to reach the back of your tongue while brushing your teeth, hence this area is often left ignored.

A woman sticking her tongue out

You will want to gently brush in a circular motion rather than a vertical movement to help decrease the possibility of an esophageal-reflux.

There are also specially made ‘tongue brushes’ that do a great job at scrubbing your tongue.

A dental tongue brush

Whether you choose your toothbrush or buy a dental tongue brush, it is an efficient way to refresh your tongue and give it a good clean.


  1. The best time to brush your tongue is in the morning. It will clean and scrub it for the day ahead.
  2. Avoid brushing the tongue after meals as you could end up vomiting.
  3. Also, a gentle and consistent action always works best.

Those suffering from chronic sinusitis should invest in a saline nasal spray to help keep their airways open.

Our body naturally produces one to two quarts of mucus a day for lubrication and moisture.

Healthy mucus helps clean your nasal membrane and keeps the air moist, dripping down our throat without us realising.

Unhealthy mucus is painful, and you will be aware of its presence.

You can identify this kind of mucus by its varying hues of yellow and green.

As this is all due to bacteria, the excess of post-nasal dripping causes bad breath.

A nasal spray keeps the airways clear from mucus and thus combats bad breath.

A lady smelling a flower

Other Options

You always have the option of taking antibiotics.

However, antibiotics tackle bacteria by reducing their capability of building a cell wall.

Bacteria that cause halitosis cannot be adequately dealt with through the use of antibiotics.

Antibiotic medicine will only prevent the bacteria from accumulating until the medicine’s content is in your body.

Natural Remedies for Halitosis

1. Zinc Content

Your body is a complicated integrated conundrum.

Did you know that zinc is needed for almost 300 different cell functions, your DNA, and is paramount in maintaining the ecology of your mouth and stomach as well?

Although more research is needed, zinc has also shown to reduce the build-up of Volatile Sulphur Compounds (VSCs) in the mouth.


Zinc Tablets

Zinc Tablets by Blackmores Aus

Before you begin loading up on zinc; consult your dentist or physician; you may need supplements or just mouthwash with zinc content.

2. Learn to De-stress

We live in stressful times, and our body is continuously under physical or emotional stress.

Stress has many adverse effects on the body and can induce sudden hair fall, loss or increase in appetite and sleep.

A lady feeling stressed

Too much stress can even reduce the efficiency of the immune system and make you more susceptible to falling ill.

An inefficient immune system results in the body’s incapability of responding to its environment, one of which is an upset in the microbiome of a particular body region.

Studies have shown that stress manipulates the diversity of the microbes (in mice); leading to changes in the gut’s functions and social behaviour.

3. Look into Digestive Enzymes

An inefficient digestive system characterises serious diseases such as Celiac and Crohn’s.

When food is not properly broken down or absorbed, bacteria will take the job up on its own.

VSCs will begin to break down food and release hydrogen sulphide, which results in smelly gas and halitosis.

Digestive enzymes will aid your metabolism rate and help digest food properly.

You can look into the following types of enzymes:

  • Animal-based enzymes – these are sourced from hogs and oxen and may include pancreatin and betaine.
  • Hydrogen – chloride with pepsin.
  • Fruit-based enzymes – Pineapples contain bromelain and papain which aid in digestion.
  • Plant-based enzymes – these are found in the form of fungi, yeast, and even probiotics. Yogurt is the best source for yeast and probiotics.

Here is an article that looks at 12 Foods That Contain Natural Digestive Enzymes.

The moral of this story is to eat healthy which will improve digestion and better gut health.

Bad breath may subside considerably as well. Even if it doesn’t wholly, your health will be improved, so it’s a win!

Fruit enzymes such as pinnapple

4. Breathing Through the Mouth

Our noses are ergonomically made to breathe through.

Breathing through the nose releases nitric oxide, which optimises oxygen-absorption and delivery.

A woman breathing through her nose

Breathing through the mouth results in a lower amount of oxygen delivered to the lungs in the form of dry, cold air.

This reduces saliva production causing dryness and unwanted bacteria production.

If you have a difficult time breathing through your nose, you can practice the following breathing technique:

  1. Press your tongue to the roof of your mouth and begin to breathe through the nose. Inhale for 3 seconds in a way that makes your stomach expand and rise.
  2. Hold the air in and then exhale for four seconds. Practising this for five-minutes daily will help maximise the amount of oxygen absorbed into your bloodstream.

5. Overworking the Body

Sleep dictates much of our conscious and unconscious lives.

Disturbed sleep patterns can result in a multitude of adverse effects on the human body.

Mood swings, feelings of hopelessness, an increase or decrease in appetite, lack of cognitive clarity and even reduced immune system functions are all symptoms of irregular sleeping patterns.

A lady having a hard time sleeping

During sleep, our body removes all toxins produced during the day and refreshes itself for the next day.

Pushing the body to work while suffering from insomnia or a lack of night-time sleep can result in diminished cognisance and immunity, and a simultaneous increase of stress.

Such instances of lack of stability in the body can lead to ups and downs in the bacteria population of your body and result in bad breath.

A man who is feeling stressed

6. Investing in Essential Oils

Essential oils are naturally-occurring oils that are extracted from different flowers, herbs, and even vegetables.

These natural oil products have anti-microbial properties which help maintain a healthy microbiome by letting healthy bacteria flourish.

Essential oils

You can find a short list of essential oils and their benefits below:

Lemongrass Essential Oil

Lemongrass is an antimicrobial and allows some bacteria types to thrive while depleting others.

This oil is used externally and is particularly useful for bacteria-based colon infections.

To combat halitosis, you can use the oil by dissolving a few drops in water for rinsing or apply it to your mouth in minute amounts.


Oil Garden Lemongrass – Available at Chemist Warehouse

You may also want to try chewing on lemon rinds. However, this can prove to be too sour for some.

Peppermint Essential Oil

If you’re a fan of peppermint, you will love this oil.

The smell of peppermint can help reduce stress and is even used in aromatherapy.

For bad breath, merely add a few drops to a cup of warm water and gargle, or swill the mixture around in your mouth for 15 – 30 seconds.

Peppermint essential oils

Clove Essential Oil

Cloves can be used as an oil or in their natural form.

They are antifungal and antimicrobial, and pressing a clove between your teeth can help combat bad breath and poor digestion and even toothaches.

The drops can be added to water and gargled or rinsed with as per previous instructions.

Clove essential oils

Eucalyptus Essential Oil

Eucalyptus leaves are famous as koala food.

This plant can help boost immunity and reduce inflammation (in case of swelling).

These leaves are antioxidants that help relieve pain and also lessen excessive mucus production.


eucalyptus essential oil

doTERRA Eucalyptus Essential Oil


There are many natural remedies you can arm yourself with when it comes to waging war against halitosis.

Before deciding to treat halitosis by yourself, consult your dentist or doctor to get to the source of your bad breath predicament.

Have you found a remedy for bad breath? Share your thoughts below.

Dr Veronica Roller

By Dr Veronica Roller

Created at September 29, 2018, Updated at October 13, 2021

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