Bad Breath & Halitosis

How to Detect if You Have Bad Breath
©Syda Productions/

Imagine driving down a country road on a beautiful afternoon.  All of the sudden, you see an accident ahead.  You pull your car over and run to the scene.  You notice that a man that isn’t breathing and doesn’t have a pulse.

Beautiful Country RoadYou decide to begin CPR.  After 30 chest pushes, you lean down to give two short breaths, just like you learned in your CPR course and all of the sudden, the man lurches up and begs you not to breathe your nasty breath into his lungs.

Not everyone wants to wait until situations like these to find out if they have bad breath.  Luckily, you don’t have to!

Here’s five simple ways to find out if your breath stinks.

Five Ways To Find Out If You Have Bad Breath

1 – Ask a Trusted Friend

This is the quickest, easiest, and probably most accurate way to find out if you have bad breath.  If you don’t feel comfortable asking anyone, then why not ask your dentist next time you go in for a visit?  If you do have bad breath, your dentist will be able to help you determine the cause so that you can be on your way to breathing out fresher air.

2 – Scrape Your Tongue and Smell It

You could use a tongue scraper or even a spoon to do this.  Alternatively, you can use a Q-Tip, cotton swap, or a piece of gauze and run it along your teeth, tongue, the inside of your cheek and on your gums.  Then take it out of your mouth and smell it.

Scraping your tongue is a good habit to get into because it can help get rid of bad breath anti anxiety when you scrape your tongue daily.

If you’re in a pinch, take a tooth pick and scrape it between a few of your teeth and then smell it.

3 – Use a Breath Testing Kit

There are new pocket bad breath testing kits being developed that will easily let you test your breath.  This can be a good option if you are uncomfortable asking someone else and want a reliable answer to the question of whether or not your breath smells.

Another option is a professional breath tester, known as a halimeter or sulfide meter.  You’ll probably have to go to a doctor to get your breath tested with a with one of these high-tech devices, which makes me wonder why you wouldn’t simply ask your doctor.

4 – Hand Cupping

Hand cupping is a popular method.  Simply cup your hands around your mouth and breathe out.  Try to get a nice, slow, humid breath out and then breathe it back in with your nose.  With this method, you need to assume that your breath is a bit worse than it smells because we usually get used to our own odors.

5 – Lick the Back of Your Hand

Simply lick the back of your hand, wait a few seconds, and smell it.  If it smells offensive then chances are that your breath is offending those around you.

Any Other Methods?

These are the methods that I’ve heard of, but I’m sure there’s more out there.  If you know of any other ways to find out if you have bad breath or if you want to share your experience detecting your bad breath, go ahead and leave a comment below.  Thanks for reading!

Foods to Fight Bad Breath

Parsley can reduce bad breathSure, that fried tuna fish sandwich with garlic and onion might have tasted good at lunch, but your post-lunch associates are not enjoying the cornucopia of smells you produce with every word you speak.  Fortunately, there are some super foods that can help get rid of bad breath.

Twelve Foods That Get Rid of Bad Breath

1. Herbs such as Parsley, Mint, Tarragon, and Basil. Usually, parsley is included as a garnish on dishes at many restaurants.  There are plenty of other herbs that can work as well.  Dr. Christine Gerbstadt a national media spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association recommends using coriander, spearmint, tarragon, eucalyptus, rosemary and cardamom.  Basically, you should aim to find any herb with a strong pleasant smell that can mask your bad breath.  Experiment a bit and find the one that works the best for you.

2. Green Tea. In a recent study trying to find foods that reduce bad breath, the researchers concluded that “green tea was very effective in reducing oral malodor temporarily because of its disinfectant and deodorant activities.”  In fact, the study found that many other foods used to get rid of bad breath simply covered up the bad smell.  Green tea, however was able to reduce the concentration of volatile sulfur compounds (one of the major causes of bad breath) while other foods couldn’t.  The only other substance in the study that could reduce the volatile sulfur compounds was toothpaste.

Lemon - A potent opponent of bad breath3. Lemons can reduce bad breath.  They have such a strong, pleasant odor that they are able to mask your bad breath.  Lemons are easy to come across in restaurants — you can simply order a water with a lemon wedge.  Squeezing the lemon in your water may be the safest way to use the lemon to mask bad breath because the strong acid lemons contain can slowly eat away at your enamel.

4. Sugar Free Mints and Candy will be able to mask bad breath by increasing your saliva production.  That extra saliva running through your mouth will be able to remove bad breath-causing substances from your teeth.

5. Crisp Fruits and Vegetables such as apples, celery, and carrots are great at stimulating the flow of your saliva also.  This will help wash away offending substances that cling to your teeth.  Also, the rough, fibrous texture of fruits and vegetables can also have a cleaning action on your teeth.

6. Yogurt can act to prevent bad breath.  It won’t work immediately, but if you eat a single-serving cup of plain yogurt without any sugar added every day, you will be able to reduce the levels of hydrogen sulfide in your mouth.

7. Berries, Melons, and Citrus Fruits that are rich in vitamin C will be able to scare away much of the bacteria in your mouth that are a source of your bad breath by creating an environment in which the bacteria do not want to live.  As an added bonus, vitamin C is also great at preventing gingivitis and improving your gingival health.

8. Anise, Cardamom, Coriander, Mint Sprigs, and Fennel Seeds are all very potent, spicy, pleasant smelling, natural ways to cover up your bad breath.

Cinnamon Sticks9. Cinnamon Sticks contain an essential oil that is actually able to kill a certain type of bacteria in your mouth that causes bad breath.  Also, the pleasant scent of cinnamon is sure to cover up some of the worst bad breath that you can breathe at it!

10. Chewing gum is great at getting your salivary flow stimulated.  Also, it can keep your teeth clean.  Don’t get chewing gum that has sugar in it, such as Chiclets, as that will just end up magnifying your bad breath by feeding your oral bacteria.  Try to find chewing gum that uses sugar alcohols, such as xylitol and sorbitol as a sweetener.  As an added bonus, these sugar alcohols can help to reduce plaque levels and keep your teeth healthy!

11. Hazelnuts if they are slowly chewed and eaten can help alleviate bad breath.

12. Chlorophyll, isn’t exactly a food, but as a supplement it works to decrease bad breath since chlorophyll is a natural deodorizer.  You can find liquid chlorophyll or chlorophyll tablets at your local pharmacy or drugstore.


Use these 12 foods to help your breath smell fresh all day long.  By doing so, you’ll not only be improving your breath, but you’ll be doing a big favor to those around you that have to breathe in what you breathe out.

Do you know of any other foods that can fight bad breath?  Let everyone else know in the comments!

Bad Breath Garlic Onions
©Martin Turzak/

Sometimes I feel bad for onions and garlic.  Lots of people eat them and enjoy them.  Then, after a few minutes they notice that their breath stinks.

Garlic, French Onion, and Red OnionWho gets blamed for their bad breath?  The onions and garlic.  In fact, when some people think of bad breath, they get an image of an old gray-haired witch stirring a boiling cauldron of onion and garlic stew.  That seems a bit unfair.

Just to be clear, I’m not saying that garlic and onions don’t cause bad breath.  I just want you to know that there are many other causes of bad breath besides onions and garlic.

Here’s eight of them:

Eight Causes of Bad Breath

  1. Oral Bacteria Waste Products
  2. Foods
  3. Stomach Problems
  4. Your Tonsils
  5. Menstruation
  6. Drugs
  7. Dry Mouth
  8. Gingivitis and Periodontitis

Oral Bacteria Waste Products

Oral bacteria is the most common cause of bad breath.  It can hide in places that you normally can’t reach with a toothbrush, like below the gumline, between your teeth, in the very back of your mouth, and on the tongue.

Even if you brush your teeth a couple of times each day and floss, you can never completely remove all of the bacteria from your mouth.  As you eat food, the bacteria break it down into waste products.  These waste products can smell really bad.  The worst ones are known as volatile sulfur compounds.  These compounds are called volatile because they evaporate quickly and find their way out of your mouth by stinking up your breath.

These compounds can give your breath that “rotten egg” smell and other unpleasant odors such as a rotten meat smell, a fecal matter odor, and a cadaver-like smell.


As mentioned in the opening paragraph, garlic and onions do play a role in bad breath.  They contain unpleasant-smelling compounds that are able to evaporate

A Cup of Milk

quickly in your mouth.  Because they evaporate quickly, they are released in your breath.  There are many other foods that can cause bad breath.  If the food has a strong odor, or it is spicy, then chances are that it can be a culprit in your bad breath.

Foods that are high in protein such as eggs, milk, and cheese have been linked to bad breath as well.

Stomach Problems

H. Pylori, which is the scientific name for the bug that causes stomach ulcers has been implicated in bad breath.  A study published in 2002 found that the presence of H. pylori showed an increase in the strength of that person’s bad breath.  While this has been shown to be associated, it has not yet been proven.

Another example of a stomach problem associated with bad breath could be that when we digest food, it smells pretty bad.  If someone is producing gas in their stomach, one of the main ways for it to leave is through the mouth.  If you’ve ever been talking to someone that burped, you know how bad it can be!

Your Tonsils

A Tonsillolith - A Culprit in Bad Breath
A Tonsillolith

Normally, your tonsils provide a good defense against harmful bacteria that enter in your mouth.  Occasionally, there is too much to handle, and your tonsils form a calcified white cheese-like substance called a tonsillolith that smells horrible! Tonsilloliths are made up of decaying matter that your tonsil has been fighting.

If you’ve ever felt like you had something lodged in the back of your mouth, and you finally coughed up a smelly whitish substance, chances are it was a tonsillolith.


Many women notice that they get bad breath only during their menstrual period.  This is very common and it is nothing to be worried about.

During menstruation, hormones alter the gums and other tissues in the mouth making them friendlier to bad breath-causing bacteria.  Pregnant women may also notice bad breath due to these hormonal changes.


Drugs such as cigarettes can cause bad breath by drying out your mouth and altering the bacteria that grow.  It can also give your breath an old, stale smell.Bad Breath of Smokers

Alcohol can give your breath that easily recognizable, pungent odor.

There are also a number of prescription drugs that can turn off the nerves that go to your salivary glands.  These drugs can dry your mouth out fairly quickly, which leads to bad breath (see below.)

Dry Mouth

Dry mouth seems to cause bad breath by allowing only certain bacteria — the ones that cause bad breath — to grow more in your mouth.  This is a major factor in morning breath.  If you are unable to breathe through your nose at night due to a cold or sinusitis, your mouth quickly dries out and becomes a breeding ground for those bad breath-causing bacteria.

There are many other activities that will cause your mouth to get dry.  Activities such as giving lectures, making sales calls, or just talking a lot with a friend can all dry your mouth out.  To fix this, it is a good idea to have some water with you, or if that’s not possible, some chewing gum can stimulate salivary flow to moisten your mouth.

Gingivitis and Periodontitis

Although this is principally caused by bacteria, I put it in a category of its own because in a healthy individual, there’s not nearly as much room for bacteria to grow in the space between your teeth and gums.

When oral bacteria multiply below the tooth surface in your gums, gingivitis can occur.  If gingivitis is not reversed, you can start to lose bone which will eventually lead to tooth loss.  As the space between your gums and teeth get bigger, it can turn into a vacation home for the bacteria that cause bad breath.

What Causes Your Bad Breath?

Have you noticed anything else that causes bad breath?  I’m sure I missed something.  Please share it in the comments!