Common medical questions and answers through blogs and articles

What Causes Morning Breath?

We all hate that icky feeling we get when we get up in the morning with “morning breath” and we often scurry right away to the bathroom to brush our teeth before we offend our significant other.  Heck – sometimes we even offend ourselves.

Morning breath

Halitosis, or bad breath, in general, may be caused by several factors, only one of which is poor dental hygiene.  The foods you enjoy eating, like curry, garlic or onions, are a major culprit and emit a foul odor, no matter how much you brush and floss. In the case of garlic and onions, they actually go right into your pores and the smell emits from your lungs, not just your mouth.  Garlic may keep you healthy but you might lose a friend or two along the way as well.

Other foods besides onion and garlic cause morning breath and this is because they are notorious for creating a sticky film on your teeth.  One infamous offender is spinach. It’s believed that the residue spinach leaves on the teeth is from oxalic acid, which also can be found in beets, kale and rhubarb.

The biggest reason for bad morning breath is because when we are unconscious and sleeping during the night, many of our bodily functions stop or slow down, and this includes our salivary glands.  Saliva is very important in fighting bad breath because it is high in oxygen and this kills the anaerobic bacteria.  It also helps break down the food particles and remove them from the mouth when the saliva is swallowed.  Due to the lower amounts of saliva during sleep, the mouth is exposed to less oxygen and there is less of it circulating to cleanse and remove particles from the mouth.  Thus, before going to bed you should ensure your mouth is as free from particles of plaque and food as possible because those items are like magnets that drag bacteria toward them and cause them to multiply.  Bacteria in the mouth thrive in an alkaline environment that inhibits the growth of bacteria.

Prevent morning breath

So, your best tools to combat morning breath would be to keep your mouth very clean by brushing your teeth twice daily and flossing and cleaning your tongue at least once per day.  Doing so, will help do an excellent job of removing food particles from the mouth.  Using a non-alcoholic mouthwash will do a good job of keeping your mouth moist… Strong mouthwash will only dry out your mouth, especially your tongue and become a breeding ground for bacteria.   If you wish, you can try gargling with some baking soda before going to bed and this will cause your mouth to become more of an alkaline environment which is good for killing bacteria.  To make a baking soda gargling solution, simply put a teaspoon in a cup of water and gargle the solution for a minute.  It is okay to swallow a bit of the solution as it is not harmful, because your objective is to coat the back of the throat.  When done, just spit out the solution and do not rinse your mouth before going to bed.

Remember to drink lots of water during the day and before bed, or use a saliva substitute to keep your mouth continually moist.  There are various dry mouth products on the market that increase saliva flow and some that you even may keep in your mouth while you sleep such as XyliMelts.  If you wake up during the night, have a pitcher of water handy and have a big swig and even swish it around in your mouth a bit.

Mouth breathers beware

Mouth breathers might find morning breath especially troublesome.  The old joke about catching spiders when your “pie hole” is open is worth a laugh to be sure, but, if you breathe with your mouth open, this will dry it out faster than anything, not to mention the dust, allergens, and other airborne particles that will collect in your mouth that are not especially conducive to fresh breath either.  It is hard to consciously do anything as you sleep, such as training yourself to breathe through your nose only, because you are unconscious while you sleep. Try ensuring that your sinuses and nasal passages are clear before you go to sleep, and, this might, hopefully, encourage you to try breathing through an uncongested nose.

Of course, having a cold may the exception to that theory – sometimes during a bad cold, you feel lucky if you can breathe at all!  Thus, if you suffer from congestion you might want to try nasal irrigation, saline nose drops or a neti pot to reduce nasal congestion and allow you to breathe easier through your nose.

If all these hints do not relieve that morning breath issue, you might want to consult with a top dentist to ensure there are no underlying dental issues that are the source of the problem.

Leave a comment