The link between dehydration and bad breath

If you’re experiencing bad breath, you will be relieved to hear that there are several simple steps you can take to help alleviate your symptoms. However, it is worth knowing what might be behind your bad breath in the first place.

Bad breath is usually caused by bacteria which gather in the mouth to break down the particles of food that are left over from when we eat. This causes unpleasant smells to form in the mouth, which causes the breath to smell bad.1 Good oral hygiene and a healthy balanced diet are the first steps you should take towards tackling bad breath. However, did you know that dehydration is also a cause bad breath?

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Saliva’s role in breath odour

It may not be an immediately obvious answer, but dehydration is a major cause of bad breath. In a healthy mouth, the saliva keeps your mouth moist and less hospitable to the bad bacteria that are attracted to the decomposing cells and food particles. It also helps maintain the pH levels in your mouth.2 When you’re producing a normal amount of saliva, you’re swallowing often which washes away bacteria and dead cells that accumulate on the tongue, gums and cheeks. Saliva also neutralises acids and prevents plaque from forming on the surface of your teeth.3

When you’re dehydrated, your production of saliva decreases and you’re missing out on its antibacterial action.

This is also why we wake up with ‘morning breath’, because your mouth slows down its production of saliva overnight leaving bacteria to breed.

A dry mouth could be caused by a number of factors including medication, not getting enough fluids, or a health condition. Certain antihistamines and antidepressants can cause a dry mouth in some people. Also, breathing through your mouth can lead to a dry mouth.4 This is why some people experience bad breath after playing sports, as they are breathing rapidly through their mouths causing it to dry out.

Luckily, you can help protect yourself against dehydration and a dry mouth by drinking plenty of water, ensuring your diet is healthy and you are not over-consuming caffeine, salt or alcohol as these can all dehydrate the body. The government recommendation is to drink 6-8 glasses of water a day, and remember that you can also get your fluids through foods such as fruits, vegetables and legumes.

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Advice is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please consult a doctor or healthcare professional before trying any remedies.
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1. [Online] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26062259.
2. [Online] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3497964.
3. [Online] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3497964.
4. [Online] https://www.nature.com/articles/ijos201239.

Bad Breath