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Morning Breath: Causes, Prevention Methods and 7 Ways to Overcome

this image illustrates bad morning breath

Although the issue namely bad morning breath is somewhat disturbing and unpleasant, we can still start the article with good news.

  • If you often experience morning breath, you should know that there are certain ways to overcome this problem.
  • The second reliving news is that morning breath is a very common problem and nearly everyone experiences it at some point in their lives. So, you don’t need to think that you are one of the few persons that suffer from it.

As for its prevalence; it is estimated that nearly 80 million people suffer from chronic morning bad breath alone in the U.S.A (1), (2).

In this article, we are going to investigate this common morning issue from every angle. So, let’s find out what morning breath is, why it happens, how to prevent and banish it.

What is Morning Breath?

Morning breath, as the name implies, is a form of bad breath that affects individuals when they wake up, typically in the morning. It might be a bit embarrassing though if you are seeing or talking to people around you right after waking up.

As mentioned above, morning breath is a rather common problem and everybody may experience it every now on then. When bad breath becomes chronic it is called halitosis in medicine (3)

In most cases, the source of this unpleasant smell is the mouth. However, they are also other factors that have nothing to do with dental health. In the following section, we discuss all the potential causes of morning breath.


Main Causes of Morning Breath

If you usually wake up with bad breath, you might be pondering about the potential factors that bring about this unpleasant mouth odour. If so, you are on the right track because, as we all know, finding out the cause/causes of a problem is the first step to solve the problem itself.

In most cases, people experience unpleasant mouth odour due to a mistake or mistakes they make themselves; for instance; sleeping without brushing teeth, smoking or drinking alcohol.

However sometimes, as mentioned above, this problem happens due to a reason that has nothing to do with oral hygiene negligence or a dental problem, such as acid reflux or medication use.

That simply indicates there can be various reasons for morning breath. The followings are the 10 most common causes of bad mouth odour in the morning.


1- Neglected Oral Hygiene

If you neglect your oral hygiene, meaning if you do not brush or floss your teeth especially before bed, then you are very likely to have bad breath in the morning. Here is why…

Flossing, brushing and even tongue scrapping remove most of the food leftovers and reduce the number of bacteria inside the mouth. When you fail to clean the mouth before bed, bacteria grow and reproduce during the night, causing your mouth to stink (4).


2- Dry Mouth

Dry mouth is one of the most common causes of bad morning breath. So, if your mouth gets dry while sleeping for any reason, then you may wake up with a smelly mouth. Here is why…

Essentially, it is all about saliva. Saliva, aka spit, helps clean up the mouth by removing bacteria and the remaining food particles, thus helping the mouth stay clean. Yet, naturally, the salivary glands produce the least amount of saliva during sleep (5),(6). And, due to this decreased saliva production bacteria can easily reproduce in the mouth, leading to bad breath.

Note that sleeping mouth open can make the situation worse by making the mouth even drier. The drier the mouth, the more bacteria it hosts (7).


3- Certain Foods

You may think that a food or drink that you consume at dinner wouldn’t affect your mouth odour the following morning. However, depending on what you consume, it actually can. In fact, you can guess what might these bad-breath triggering foods be, such as garlic and onions. In addition to them though, citrus fruits, coffee and spicy foods can also be strong enough to influence your mouth odour until the following morning.


4- Dental Issues

Some types of dental problems such as tooth cavities and gum disease can pave the way for bad breath, including morning breath. When these dental issues remained untreated, they can further damage mouth health, therefore, may cause you to wake up with bad breath regularly. Because these and similar dental problems create better places for bacteria to hide and easily proliferate in the mouth (8).


5- Smoking

Not only when you wake up, but also during the day, smoking can change your mouth odour in a negative way! You may want to ask how?

The first reason is that smoking can cause your mouth to get dry. As we discussed above, bacteria can grow in the mouth easily when it is dry. The second reason is smoking can lead to gum disease which turns into gingivitis, which induces bad breath. The third reason is the smell of smoke itself that affects mouth odour and leading to morning breath (9),(10).


6- Acid Reflux/Gerd

Acid reflux is a potential cause of morning breath. If you suffer from acid reflux or GERD – which means having heartburn more than twice a week – then you may wake up with a bad mouth odour, despite the fact that you apply proper dental hygiene regularly. Here is how…

While sleeping, stomach contents including stomach acid can flow back toward the food pipe and mouth in people with acid reflux. When it happens certain symptoms happen due to acid movement from the stomach towards the mouth, such as heartburn, sore taste and bad breath. Since gravity doesn’t keep the contents in the stomach while lying down or sleeping, acid reflux becomes more likely at night (11), (12).


7- Certain Drugs

Above, we have said that dry mouth is one of the common reasons that lead to morning breath. Although drugs do not cause bad breath directly, some drugs can contribute to mouth odour by causing dry mouth (4).

If you use a prescribed drug and experience morning breath, read the medicine package insert to understand whether the drug you use has a dry mouth side effect.


8- Certain Health Conditions

Some medical conditions are known to cause bad breath, including morning breath. Here are the most common ones.

As they say, diabetes and bad breath go hand in hand. This is mainly about the fact that saliva, in people with diabetes tends to contain more glucose. This firstly increases the risk of gum problems and that, in turn, increases the risk of having bad breath (13), (14).

Liver disease and bad breath are also associated with each other due to the fact that when liver malfunctions toxins can build up in the bloodstream, causing smelly breath (15).

Kidney disease is another problem that may cause an unpleasant smell in the mouth in the morning (15).


9- Allergies

If you wake up with a bad smell, an allergy you have might be the culprit. Let’s explain the process in the simplest way. Allergies can increase mucus production in the nose and sinuses and that causes post-nasal drip. If that drips down the back of the throat it can create an environment for bacteria to multiply there, leading to bad breath (16).


How to Prevent Bad Morning Breath

Now that we have understood the main causes of morning breath, we can look at the most effective prevention methods of this problem.

Sticking to these below-given prevention methods will significantly reduce the risk of waking up with bad breath or completely solve the problem.


1-Practice Good Oral Hygiene

First things first, arguably the best way to prevent morning breath is to practice good and consistent oral hygiene! As long as you take care of your mouth – which is usually the source of the bad breath problem – you will most likely keep dental problems, including bad breath, at bay.

So, what are the fundamentals of proper oral hygiene? Here is the answer…

  • Brushing teeth at least twice a day is crucial! But, if you are to prevent morning breath it is indispensable to brush teeth before going to bed. This reduces the number of bacteria that can cause morning breath.
  • Flossing is another important oral hygiene practice as it removes the trapped food particles thus helping the mouth remains clean.
  • Using mouth rinses can further reduce the number of bacteria in the saliva and helps prevent bad breath along with morning breath (17).
  • Using a tongue scraper can remove a significant amount of bacteria from the surface of the tongue thus promoting fresh breath (18).


2- Quit Smoking

Science confirms the fact that quitting smoking is hard, but not impossible at all. As we discussed above, smoking can cause morning breath in a number of ways. Therefore, quitting smoking can make a drastic change in your mouth odour from negative to positive.


3- Avoid Some Foods

Consuming some types of foods and drinks can cause your breath to stink, even if you brush afterwards. Therefore, when the afternoon is over consider avoiding specific foods that can potentially cause morning breath. Coffee, onion, garlic, black tea, citrus fruits, canned tuna are among the foods to avoid after the evening.


3- Beware Alcohol Consumption

Limiting alcohol consumption ( or not drinking at all), especially before going to bed, can help you prevent morning breath. You may ask, how and why? Quite simple! When alcohol consumed, it can decrease the saliva that washes away the remaining foods and debris in your mouth (19). That, in turn, increases the risk of having morning breath.


4- Drink More Water

Drinking a sufficient amount of water during the day, thus keeping the mouth hydrated, is one of the best prevention methods of morning breath. Because not drinking enough water can cause your mouth to get dry. It bears repeating that the drier the mouth the more bacteria can flourish. So, drink at least half a glass of water before going to bed to keep your mouth hydrated. It will help prevent smell-causing bacteria from growing and reproducing in the mouth.


6- Stop Acid Reflux

As we indicated, in the ” main causes of morning breath ” section; acid reflux is a disease that can negatively impact mouth odour. Therefore, controlling acid reflux simply means preventing morning breath as well, if acid reflux causes bad breath in the morning. You can check the article “effective ways to prevent acid reflux” on this website.


7- Visit Your Dentist Regularly

No one can know what is actually happening in your mouth better than your dentist! Visit your dentist on a regular basis. If there is any dental problem that causes morning breath, the dentist will detect and treat the problem.


How to Get Rid of Morning Breath

Thus far we have discovered the main causes as well as prevention methods of morning breath. In this section, we will look at the ways to get rid of morning breath effectively.

Let’s assume you woke up with a morning breath and want to get rid of the smell immediately, what would you do? The below-given methods can help you get rid of the smell!

Here are the 7 most effective methods to banish mouth odour after waking up.


1- Rinse Your Mouth

If you wake up with bad breath, then you should consider rinsing your mouth with water first thing in the morning. That reduces the number of bacteria grown overnight in the mouth, thus impact your mouth odour in a positive way. After that, drink a glass of water, this will also help remove bacteria from your mouth (20).


2- Eat Breakfast

You may not be a huge fan of having breakfast. But, the thing is that eating breakfast can help you get rid of unpleasant mouth odour in the morning.

In one study; researchers investigated the effect of having breakfast on morning breath. And, they came to the conclusion that eating breakfast decreases oral sulfur-containing gases, which are thought to be responsible for morning breath (21).


3- Brush and Floss Your Teeth

Brushing and flossing are your best friends when it comes to banishing morning breath. By brushing you will remove most of the bacteria accumulated in your mouth during the night. And, by flossing you will get rid of the trapped food particles thus helping the mouth stay clean.


4- Scrap Your Tongue

So, you had had your breakfast, then brushed and floss your teeth. That means you significantly reduce the number of bacteria in the mouth. But, you should know there is another way that is also quite effective to keep the mouth clean by removing bacteria. This technique is indeed tongue scrapping.

Although some underestimate the effectiveness of tongue scrapping in terms of removing bacteria, it is maybe the most effective way to get rid of morning breath, as the study suggests so (22).

In another study, that we cited above, researchers discovered that tongue brushing can significantly reduce the sulfur gas concentration, which is claimed to cause bad breath (21).

So, when should you scrap your tongue? Before or after brushing? Experts recommend brushing the tongue after toothbrushing (23).

Gently scrape your tongue after brushing your teeth to get a fresher breath in the morning.


5- Use Mouthwash

Using mouthwash is another effective method of eliminating potential bad breath. Mouthwash can help reduce the number of bacteria in the mouth, thus changing the mouth odour in a positive way.

In fact, the bad breath eliminating property make these products quite popular.

In one study; researchers concluded that mouthwashes can be quite effective in combatting morning breath. They also underlined that; mouth rinse products that contain chlorhexidine and zinc lactate are the more effective ones in terms of removing bacteria from the tongue and saliva (24).

However, when you should use mouthwash is slightly controversial. Because Mayo Clinic supports the idea of using mouthwash after brushing teeth while the National Health Service recommends avoiding mouthwash right after toothbrushing (25),(26),(27).

The manufacturer of the product may indicate the best time to use the mouthwash on the product’s label.


6- Chewing Gum

Another method of eliminating bad mouth odour after waking up is to chew sugar-free chewing gum. Especially, if you have to rush early in the morning, then chewing gum can be your saviour by providing a cool breath. Gum triggers saliva, which washes out the mouth thus helping the mouth remains odour-free (28), (29).


7- Breath Mint

There are moments that you cannot practice oral hygiene for certain reasons. In these moments, breath mint can help you combat morning breath. However, it is important to consume mint that contains no sugar. Having said that, remember the fact that it is a temporary solution for morning breath (3).