Morning Breath: What Causes It and How to Prevent It

It happens to the best of us.  We wake up with cringe-worthy breath and hesitate to open our mouths in the vicinity of anything with a nose.  Or maybe you are on the sniffing end of someone else’s morning breath.  This week’s blog can help you explore some of the potential causes of morning and give you tips on improving it.

What Causes All Bad Breath?

All bad breath is the result of bacteria that produce stinky gases.  These bacteria can live in the mouth, nose, throat, and even in the lungs and GI tract.  The vast majority of bad breath originates in the mouth due to the prevalence of bacteria and all of the wonderful hiding places the mouth provides.

What Causes Morning Breath?

Morning breath is distinctively bad breath that develops overnight.  The main reason people are more likely to have bad breath in the morning is because our bodies do not produce as much saliva while we are sleeping.  This protective mechanism prevents us from drowning in our own drool.

The downside of this reduced output of saliva is that the bacteria can proliferate more freely in the absence of bacteria.  So the flow is this:

Sleep ->Reduced Saliva Output -> Increased Bacterial Activity -> More Smelly Gases Produced -> Morning Breath

This increased bacterial activity overnight is also the reason your dentist and dental hygienists stress the need for brushing and flossing before bed.  We want you to remove as much of the bacteria as you can before you go to sleep and have less saliva to fight it.  The following are conditions that make morning breath worse.

Dry Mouth

Dry mouth obviously means someone does not have enough saliva.  The mouth naturally becomes a little dry overnight due to the reduced output of saliva.  However, if someone already has a limited production of saliva, his morning breath will be much worse.

This applies to both chronic dry mouth caused by prescription medications and temporary dry mouth caused by too much alcohol the night before.

Mouth Breathing

People who sleep with their mouths open, allowing air to flow through the mouth all night, also have a higher risk for morning breath.  Basically, a mouth breather will create a temporary dry mouth situation every night.  Mouth breathing can result from chronic nasal congestion or certain anatomical features of the face’s growth.  It is not normal for someone to breathe through the mouth all night.

*If your child is a chronic mouth breather, please take them to an ENT as soon as possible.  Studies show that mouth breathing actually affects the way the face grows.  By intervening early, you can help your child breathe easier and more naturally for the rest of her life!


Untreated cavities are collecting spots for bacteria.  Because they are inside a tooth, they are not areas you can clean with your toothbrush or floss.  The bad breath smell of cavities is more obvious in the mornings due to the lack of saliva.

Gum Disease

In the same way, the pockets created between the teeth and gums by gum disease are perfect hiding spots for clusters of stinky-gas-producing bacteria!  Once gum disease progresses to a certain point, your toothbrush bristles and floss cannot reach the depth of the hiding spot to remove the bacteria.  They are free to flourish, and they do!

How to Improve Morning Breath

So what can you do about morning breath?  You have to fight the bacteria that cause it.  Here are the best tools you have in the fight against morning breath.

  1. Practice Great Oral Hygiene

Removing the bacteria as thoroughly as possible before bedtime greatly reduces morning breath.  This means your nightly routine should include thorough brushing with the appropriate technique and flossing.  Yes, flossing.  You leave thousands and thousands of bacteria on your teeth when you do not floss.

  1. Avoid Things that Cause Dry Mouth

We are not telling you to stop taking prescription medications.  You’ll have to talk to your medical doctor about that option.  We mean the optional choices we make that can cause dry mouth.  Avoid over-indulging in alcohol.  Stop smoking or vaping.  Don’t even use mouthwash that contains alcohol.  Stay hydrated.

If you breathe through your mouth consistently, see an ENT to address breathing issues.

  1. Address Current Dry Mouth

There are many helpful products on the market for those who suffer with dry mouth.  The best nighttime products are Biotene Dry Mouth Gel and XyliMelts.  The dry mouth gel works to lubricate the inside of the mouth.  XyliMelts are small patches applied to the roof of the mouth that release just enough xylitol throughout the night to stimulate your body’s natural production of saliva.  They are easy to use and really effective.

  1. See the Dentist for Untreated Dental Problems

Like we said, you can’t reach the areas of bacterial buildup in cavities and progressive gum disease, even with the best oral hygiene.  You need dental treatment.  We know dental treatment does not sound very exciting.  Just think of the fresh breath that awaits you afterward!

More Questions about Morning Breath?

Call 940-382-1750 today to schedule a consultation with Dr. Chowning.  He can assess the health of your teeth and gums, and give you specific recommendations for overcoming your morning breath.

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