Getting to the root of the many causes: how to combat bad breath


Bad breath is particularly tricky because those who have it can’t smell it themselves. One in four people has bad breath from time to time, and some even suffer from it permanently. Since the causes are so varied, much can be gained from seeing a professional.

Where does bad breath come from?

Bad breath, or halitosis, is caused by the decomposition processes of organic substances in the mouth cavity. Fine food particles that accumulate on the lining of the mouth, on the tongue or in spaces between the teeth can trigger the unpleasant odour.

It could therefore be assumed that cleaning our mouth cavity carefully would be enough to prevent bad breath. Sadly, it’s not quite that easy. Andreas Filippi, a dentist specialised in halitosis, explains: «There are around 200 other causes of bad breath, which can vary greatly from person to person.»

From ageing to diet to stress, the range of different factors is wide. As a rule, it's a combination of individual factors that ultimately results in bad breath.

Treatment for children

As a general rule, the older we get, the more likely we are to develop bad breath. For this reason, children tend to be less affected by bad breath than adults. But parents can make their children aware of the topic by encouraging good oral hygiene.

Tips for at home

There are all kinds of tips to help with bad breath. As the causes are so numerous, not all of them work equally well for each person.


The first step is thorough dental hygiene, including flossing between each tooth and cleaning your tongue. Aids specially designed for this purpose, such as tongue brushes and scrapers, are available in retail stores.


Your diet can also have an influence: take note as to when your bad breath mostly occurs and try to recognise patterns. In addition to the commonly known triggers such as alcohol or garlic, others can be coffee, cheese or fish.


Or are you feeling particularly stressed right now? Psychological pressure releases hormones that cause less saliva to be produced. And when we have a dry mouth, which is often the case in the morning, food residues and plaque are less easily removed. On the other hand, saliva production is stimulated by drinking plenty of water, and eating vegetables and citrus fruits.

A range of other natural aids could be added to the list. Theories exist that include the use of herbs, ginger and baking powder, for example. However, halitosis expert Andreas Filippi is not convinced: «There are plenty of original ideas out there – but they’re not enough to get rid of bad breath for ever.»

How to get rid of bad breath

Andreas Filippi has not only written a helpful book on the subject (Frischer Atem - Ein Ratgeber zum Tabuthema Mundgeruch), but also co-developed an app called «Halitosis». This provides information about possible individual causes and a diary to help sufferers get to the root of the problem. It also helps patients prepare for a professional consultation.

Consultation with a specialist

Filippi recommends a consultation with a specialist for everyone suffering from bad breath. Specialist dentists will objectively measure the intensity of the odour and determine the combination of causes that leads to the condition in that person’s specific case. In most cases, one or two sessions are enough. Patients can then make changes accordingly and bid their bad breath farewell, Filippi says. But it's determining which behavioural changes to make which is the most difficult part. To this end, special tests have been developed for patients to use at home.

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