Why Does My Breath Smell Bad Even After Brushing?

Coping with halitosis, otherwise known as bad breath, can be distressing and embarrassing. However, despite your best efforts at maintaining dental hygiene, your breath might still be less than ideal. Even more frustrating is when you have bad breath after brushing.

Bad breath has many causes, most of which start inside your mouth. If you suffer from halitosis, even after brushing, there are several ways to treat this condition.

What Causes Bad Breath Even After Brushing?

It can be frustrating if you find yourself asking, “Why does my breath stink after brushing?” Removing food particles by brushing twice daily is essential in preventing the accumulation of bacteria, which leave sulfur compounds. This sulfur can create bad breath if you don’t remove it through brushing.

Unfortunately, brushing will not cure all cases of bad breath. There are several reasons why the odors in your mouth might linger.

Cavities and Gum Disease

Cavities can make it easier for bacteria to evade a toothbrush. Even with the most thorough brushing, you might not be able to reach bacteria lurking deep inside a cavity.

These odor-causing bacteria can also hide in deep gum pockets, usually caused by gum disease, which afflicts over 47% of adults over 30. Gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, not only contributes to bad breath but can also result in tooth loss if left untreated.

Certain Foods

If you love onions or garlic-rich foods, you can expect some stinky breath to linger after brushing, even for a day or two. That is because, during digestion, oils from the garlic enter your bloodstream and travel to your lungs.

Dry Mouth

Saliva is essential for speaking, swallowing, chewing, and breaking down food. Another function of saliva is controlling the number of bacteria in your mouth. Dry mouth occurs when you cannot produce enough saliva, which often causes bacteria in your teeth to build up. In addition to unpleasant breath, excessive bacteria can lead to gum disease and tooth decay.


People who smoke often deal with bad breath from the tobacco smoke that stays in their mouths. This habit also increases mouth dryness, which increases the risk for gum disease, and both conditions can cause foul breath.

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)

If you suffer from chronic acid reflux, there is a good chance you are also experiencing bad breath. Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) causes the food and acid in your stomach to come back up through your esophagus and cause bad breath. This regurgitation can leave your mouth tasting bitter and sour.

Some Health Conditions

Your bad breath might not be due to dental hygiene but to a health condition like kidney disease, bronchitis, diabetes, intestinal blockage, or peptic ulcer. Some diseases or ailments can change the levels of bacteria in your body or chemicals in your bloodstream, which can negatively affect your breath.

Postnasal Drip

Cold or flu symptoms, a sinus infection, or strep throat can leave you with postnasal drip, which happens when mucus from your nose drips down your throat. With postnasal drip, the mucus in your throat attracts bacteria that contribute to the bad odor in your mouth.

How Can I Get Rid of Bad Breath?

You can do several things to reduce bad breath that lingers after brushing. Perhaps the most straightforward strategy is to improve your dental hygiene. For instance, make sure you brush twice a day using toothpaste with fluoride. You should also use floss or a dental pick to maintain the gums and remove particles stuck in-between teeth. Brushing or scraping your tongue and limiting your intake of sugary foods can also go a long way to freshening your breath.

You might also try one or more home remedies to supplement your daily dental routine:

  • Chew sugar-free gum.
  • Drink more water.
  • Nibble on fennel seeds.
  • Try pineapple juice.
  • Rinse with baking soda.

When You Should Consult a Dentist

You might need to consult a dentist if your bad breath persists despite proper oral hygiene. In addition to diagnosing possible mouth dryness or gum disease, your dentist can provide professional teeth cleaning. They may also recommend more aggressive treatment, which can get at the root of your bad breath.

If gum disease is the leading cause of your persistent bad breath, you might consider root scaling or planing. These dental procedures take an intensive approach to removing tartar build-up, which causes gum inflammation. With scaling, the dentist removes plaque and tartar below the gum line. Root planing involves smoothing tooth roots to allow recessed gums to reattach, reducing gum pockets where bacteria can grow.

Sometimes, a positive change in oral hygiene can treat bad breath. However, if your breath still smells after brushing your teeth and practicing good dental habits, it might be time for professional intervention. A dentist can help you identify and treat the underlying problem of persistent bad breath.

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