Dry mouth and bad breath

Garlic, spicy food and coffee are well-known offenders when it comes to causing unpleasant breath, but did you know that dry mouth and bad breath also are closely linked? Dry mouth means that your saliva production is not sufficient to keep your mouth wet. Saliva helps moisten and cleanse your mouth by neutralizing the acids that are produced by plaque. It also washes away food particles and dead cells on the tongue, gums and the inside of your cheeks. If you have dry mouth, or xerostomia as it is called in medical terms, the food and dead cells will start to decompose and produce so called volatile sulfur compounds, which cause foul smells and, consequently, bad breath. Xerostomia affects approximately one in ten people, mostly the elderly and people who take certain medications. It should not be confused with dry mouth that occurs in healthy people and is caused by a night’s sleep or dehydration.

Causes of xerostomia

The most common culprits for xerostomia are various prescription and non-prescription drugs, for example blood pressure medications, antihistamines, antidepressants, diuretics, non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, and more. Dehydration, radiation treatment to the head and neck, and diseases such as Sjögren’s syndrome, salivary gland problems, hormonal imbalances, rheumatoid arthritis and diabetes can also cause xerostomia.

"Morning breath"

Prevention of bad breath is in most cases easy, and starts with good oral hygiene. But simply brushing your teeth may not be enough. You should also use floss or an interdental brush to clean in between the teeth, and if you have bad breath you could use a mouthwash like CB12 as a complement. CB12 prevents bad breath by neutralizing the odorous sulfur compounds in your mouth, instead of just masking the smell. It contains both zinc acetate and chlorhexidine diacetate, which has been clinically proven to prevent bad breath for 12 hours after each use1.

Prevention of dry mouth

These steps can help relieve dry mouth and bad breath temporarily:

  • Drink water frequently throughout the day to avoid dehydration, but avoid drinks that are sugary, acidic or caffeinated.
  • Chew gum to stimulate saliva production. Just make sure it is sugar free, since sugar can contribute to cavities and bad breath. Xylitol, a natural sweetener, can prevent the growth of the bacteria that cause bad breath.
  • Maintain good tooth brushing and flossing habits and see your dentist for regular checkups.
  • Rinse with a mouthwash daily to combat unpleasant breath.
  • If you smoke, this is a good time to quit. Although smoking does not cause dry mouth, it can aggravate it. The same is also true for smokeless tobacco, alcohol and coffee.
  • Try a xylitol containing saliva substitute.


1 Tonzetich J. Production and origin of oral malodor: a review of mechanisms and methods of analysis. Journal of Periodontology (1977) 48: 13-20.