Why Do I Still Have Bad Breath After Brushing?

Does your breath smell awful no matter how much you brush your teeth?

We’ve all experienced the unpleasant effects of bad breath at some point. Also known as halitosis, bad breath can be embarrassing and may cause us to shy away from talking to others. Typically, the first line of defence against offensive breath is your trusty toothbrush; brushing your teeth at least twice a day is recommended to keep your mouth clean and your breath fresh. But what if you’ve brushed your teeth and the problem persists?

There are a few different things that could cause bad breath after brushing. In this article, Dr Karmazin will share six possible reasons you’re experiencing that “not-so-fresh” feeling even after brushing, as well as a few ways to solve the problem.

6 possible causes of bad breath

1. Dry mouth

As bacteria accumulate in your mouth, a lack of saliva could contribute to bad breath. Dry mouth could be caused by not drinking enough water throughout the day or by certain medical conditions or medications. If you suspect your bad breath may be the result of dry mouth, make an effort to drink more water throughout the day and speak with your dentist or doctor if it persists.

2. Food

Odours from certain foods and beverages, including onions, garlic, and coffee, tend to linger even after a thorough brushing.

3. Cavities

Tooth decay, gum disease, and other oral health conditions can cause bad breath.

4. Medical conditions

Sinus infections, strep throat, acid reflux, and other systemic issues could be the underlying cause of long-lasting unpleasant breath. The mouth has been aptly described as the “gateway to the body,” so if you believe your halitosis is caused by a health concern, visit your doctor and express your concerns.

5. Mouthwash

I know what you’re thinking – “Wait, isn’t mouthwash supposed to help bad breath?” Many people don’t know that alcohol, including the type found in alcohol-based mouthwash, dries out your mouth, leading to bad breath. To avoid drying out your mouth, choose an alcohol-free mouthwash for longer-lasting minty freshness.

6. Smoking and tobacco products

If you smoke or use tobacco products, chances are good that brushing alone won’t mask the resulting bad breath. There are many good reasons to quit the habit; this is just one more.

How to fix bad breath

No matter the root cause of your bad breath, there are healthy habits you can develop to try to combat it. Brushing your teeth at least twice a day for two minutes is the first step. But what else can you do if bad breath persists after brushing?

Floss daily: Flossing will remove food particles missed by brushing alone, helping reduce the risk of odour-causing bacteria growth.

Drink plenty of water: Drinking water throughout the day helps wash away food debris and bacteria. It also can help with chronic dry mouth, another bad breath culprit.

Chew sugarless gum: Chewing gum stimulates saliva, which helps to keep your mouth hydrated and can minimize bad breath.

Eat tooth-cleaning foods: Certain crunchy fruits and vegetables, including apples, celery, and others, can help clean your teeth. In fact, celery has been called “nature’s floss!”

Clean your tongue: If you still experience bad breath after brushing, there could be food residue on your tongue. Try a tongue scraper (an inexpensive tool found in drugstores) or try brushing your tongue with your toothbrush to solve this issue and prevent bacteria buildup.

Quit smoking: If you need help quitting smoking, the CDC offers helpful resources, including steps to making a “quit plan,” ways to manage your cravings, and more.

Visit your dentist regularly: If you have chronic offensive breath, your dentist may be able to discern the root of the problem. Regular hygiene cleanings will also help remove more odour-causing bacteria than at-home care alone. Your dentist and hygienist may also be able to spot areas you’re not able to reach by brushing alone. If this is the case, they may recommend better flossing techniques or even sealants to help prevent tooth decay.

Your dentist can help you identify and fix the root cause of your bad breath.

Consistent at-home dental care, including brushing and flossing, is one of your first lines of defence against stinky breath. However, if the problem persists despite your best efforts, speak with a dental professional to identify and solve the cause. Your dentist can help you feel confident to smile and speak confidently without fears of bad breath!


The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

19 comments on “Why Do I Still Have Bad Breath After Brushing?”
  1. It’s great to know more about getting rid of bad breath. I try to take care of my teeth, but sometimes I have this problem and it won’t go away. Flossing is definitely what I need to do more, especially if it’ll get rid of the food particles left over from the day.

  2. A dry mouth is one of the most common causes of bad breath. Sipping water throughout the day will keep the tissues moist and prevent dry mouth. Dry mouth is often caused by certain medications so you might want to look at the side effects of any prescriptions you take on a regular basis. If you’re at work, it can be hard to find time to brush your teeth or use mouthwash. Chewing gum keeps your mouth hydrated and your breath fresh. Thanks for sharing this content loaded with information.

  3. Very good indeed, helped me a lot your post for sure the best I found, thank you.

  4. Hoo Ray

    If flossing, brushing, and mouthwash aren’t enough, look into interdental brushes. You might have food stuck in a spot that the brush and floss can’t get to.

  5. A bitter taste is typical due to increased levels of estrogen. These side effects are temporary. Talk to your dentist and your primary care physician about this to see what they recommend.

  6. Betina1972

    Hi all

    I also have the same bad breath problem. I been to the dentist and gum specialist done endoscopy you name it. My house is like a dentist I floss I brush twice daily but the food smell won’t go away. I stopped working because I was embarrassed. Last week after endoscopy the Dr gave me guts medication they just guessing no one knows the answer. I’m praying about it I had two ectopic pregnancy last one was 2014. I feel no pain at all but suffer from indigestion for about 10 years now. I eat dinner at around 7.30pm but when I woke up in the morning I smell the same food. Bullies are spitting on me thinking that I don’t brush my teeth. My husband is abusive to me I guess I been sick for too long he gets annoyed at me almost everytime and I can’t afford anything since this is been going on for 10 years now. I been to ENT and had my tonsil removed 4years ago but I’m still the same….is there any good Dr out there please?

    1. Beta59

      I’m having the same problem as you. I don’t know what to do. I guess I already do everything but still carrying this problem for about 13 years I’m working with my allergies right now I had an endoscopy and everything still the same.

    2. Molly A.

      I suggest you try:
      – a plant-based diet for a month with the exception of having Kefir (natural bacteria yoghurt – excellent Natural probiotic for the gut).
      – to cut down on caffeine
      – to rinse your sinuses
      – to cut down on sweets & spices

      I hope this helps.

      1. Ahmed

        Hi Molly,
        I tried everything but still my breath smells like rotten eggs’.
        Also turned to fresh vegetables and fruit juices for more than a week with no change.
        Then keto diet for about a week with no success.
        – Multiple dentists told me that teeth are perfectly ok.
        – One referred to an ENT who did not find anything. – Got myself checked by a gastroenterologist who put on a month long medicine thinking that it has to do with the GERD but no result.
        I’m thinking of getting Gallbladder and kidney tests soon but there seems little hope ☹

        1. Dave

          If you are only trying these things for a week or a month then it’s not long enough.

          You should persist with a few things for at least a year before you know if they work or not.

        2. Anonymous

          Hi! Any luck? My husband has this problem it seems there’s no amount of effort that can cure it. He goes to dentist regularly they say his oral hygiene is good, gastroenterologist saw nothing and prescribed an antacid. ENT says he has a mild deviated septum but nothing sure this is the cause. The odor of his breath ranges from somewhat poopy, to cabbage-y. What to do?

    3. Molly A.

      Please check my reply below. The website here didn’t allow me to submit the same reply twice.

      Best of luck.

  7. Anon

    Same here! I have tried every possible thing. Not sure why I keep getting bad breath from throat! Very upset! Losing confidence! It has been persistent along with angular cracking of my lips. Nothing came on Blood/scan reports 🙁

    1. Molly A.

      Please check my reply above.

      Best of luck,

  8. I didn’t know that cavities have the ability to cause bad breath. Recently, I have noticed that my breath smells terrible when I wake up in the morning. Maybe it would be best for me to find a dentist to see if I have a cavity.

  9. Thanks for sharing. It was really helpful

  10. Bad breath is breath that has an unpleasant odor. It’s also known as halitosis. This odor can occur from time to time, or it can be long lasting, depending on the cause. Millions of bacteria live in the mouth, particularly on the back of the tongue. In many people, these bacterias are the primary causes of bad breath. The mouth’s warm, moist conditions are ideal for the growth of these bacteria. Most bad breath is caused by something in the mouth. https://sabkadentist.com/simple-methods-to-stop-bad-breath/

  11. Bad breath is a very common problem amongst humans. It happens due to unhygienic care of the mouth. Bad breath, also known as halitosis in medical terms. It is a breath that causes unpleasant odour from the mouth. It is very embarrassing and in some cases, it can also cause anxiety while opening the mouth.

  12. Joyce Thomas

    I’ve had really bad breath from a child. I brush & floss three times a day. I see my dentist every six months. After, I brush my teeth feels clean for ten minutes my tongue has slimy fume I brush and use a tongue scraper. Still have bad breath.

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