The 4 Sources of Bad Breath

Bad breath (also known as halitosis) can be damaging both socially and emotionally. It can crush your self-esteem and lead to souring relationships in your professional and personal life.


You either don’t know that you have bad breath, and you’re unknowingly damaging relationships, or you’re well aware and you spend your day in a self-conscious nightmare, finding yourself withdrawing from socializing with others.


According to the Journal of International Society of Preventive and Community Dentistry, approximately “a third of the  population deals with bad breath.”


The good news is that there are tactics that can help. The bad news is that most of the advice out there is short-sided. Many think it’s simply a case of brushing and flossing more often. Although this can be true for some, others may find themselves brushing on end with no improvements. 


What people miss is that bad breath can derive from a few sources: the mouth, the nose, the stomach, and the throat.  Naturopathic physician, Dr. Jade Teta shares an acronym that he uses with his clients to help bring awareness to all the elements of bad breath: M.I.N.T.


Let’s dive into each. 

M = Mouth

The mouth refers to the gums, teeth, and tongue. It can be due to poor general dentistry habits and food trapped in the teeth.


This is where most people start, and rightfully so. Often times brushing, flossing, and scrubbing the mouth with toothpaste and mouthwash can stop halitosis in its tracks. 


Bad breath can also be caused by having a dry mouth so drinking and swishing water throughout the day can revive the saliva in the mouth to keep it moist and fresh. Dr. Teta does offer a piece of unconventional advice too: to suck and chew on cloves. He says, “[Cloves] [leave] a very clean smelling breath and lasts longer than gum (they are slightly analgesic too so they work great for canker sores).”


All of these tactics are a great place to start to get rid of bad breath, but if general dental care doesn’t work, there may be other causes at work.

I = Intestines

Bad breath coming from the stomach or intestines is a lesser-known cause. When the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) is continually disturbed by the foods we eat, it can release smells up through the esophagus causing others to avoid talking with us. This can be unknown to the person with halitosis because they feel as if they have excellent dental habits, but little do they know it’s not their dental habits in play here. 


Changing dietary habits and adding a good digestive enzyme can help. Avoid foods that disturb the LES, like coffee, mint, and the nightshades (which include eggplant, potatoes, tomatoes, and peppers).

N = Nose

Do you know somebody with bad breath who is a heavy mouth breather? It’s likely their bad breath is coming from their sinuses rather than their mouth. Allergens, both in the environment and in foods, can produce mucus and bacteria leading to congestion.


The congestion and the dry mouth it causes leaves a smell that is almost sticky or sweet. Along with limiting allergens to the best of your ability, Dr. Teta advises using a xylitol based nasal spray or a Neti pot.

T= Throat 

Lastly, the “T” in the M.I.N.T. acronym stands for throat. Sinus issues can cause bacteria or food particles to build up in the back of the throat and tonsils, causing a rather repulsive smell without realizing it. 


Eliminating any food allergens is a good first step, and adding in foods that are rich in nitrates, like arugula and other salad greens is great.


You can also chew gum or improve general dental care to help. Gargling with saline or xylitol based dental products and gently brushing the back of the throat are things to try if you believe the smell is coming from the throat.