The unpleasantness of morning breath leads you to quickly cover your mouth when you pass your loved ones in the morning. You realize no amount of brushing, flossing, or mouthwash the night before seems to mask the overwhelming odor from your mouth when you wake up. Getting out of bed with bad breath, halitosis, in the morning is fairly common as our mouth goes into a “rest and digest” mode overnight.

Morning Breath And Saliva

Up to 80 million people, according to the Academy of General Dentistry, suffer from bad breath that is ever-present, while millions of Americans suffer from bad breath in limited situations such as in the morning or after eating pungent food. People who suffer from dry mouth often due to taking certain medications or mouth breathers are more prone to morning breath. Those with poor oral hygiene will also suffer from bad breath more readily than those with good oral hygiene, of course.

Bad breath in the morning is mostly attributed to a lack of saliva. “During the day, your mouth produces a significant amount of saliva, but while you sleep, saliva production goes down,” Dr. Hugh Flax, a cosmetic dentist and past president of the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry in Atlanta, Ga., told Medical Daily in an email.

Morning Breath And The Foul Smell

Saliva is critical for sweeping away the food particles that would otherwise linger and collect bacteria. A decrease in saliva production increases the likelihood of dry mouth. “[This] allows bacteria to grow and produce volatile sulfur compounds (VSCs), which is what smells bad,” Dr. Matthew Nejad and Dr. Kyle Stanley, dentists at Helm | Nejad | Stanley — Dentistry in Beverly Hills, Calif., told Medical Daily in an email. Bacteria munches on compounds, proteins, amino acids, and leftover foods that are stuck in your mouth and teeth to produce these VSCs, which causes the bad odor.

Morning Breath And How You Sleep

The way you sleep can also affect the intensity and frequency of morning breath. Snoring or breathing through the mouth at night can increase the likelihood of bad breath. Most mouth breathers sleep with their mouth open, causing their mouth to get dryer and therefore letting breath-causing bacteria flourish. Basically, “any time you reduce saliva in the mouth, you reduce the mouth’s ability to fight the bacteria that causes the bad breath,” Flax said.

Morning Breath And Your Health

While bad breath has nothing to do with age, the bacteria that causes bad breath may have several health implications. These implications are secondary to dental health complications. Typically, according to Nejad and Stanley, the first cause of bad breath is periodontal issues such as gingivitis and periodontitis, which have been proven to be involved with heart disease and stroke.  

This suggests your oral health is strongly connected to other health conditions, also known as the mouth-body connection or the oral-systemic link. “The toxins from oral bacterial are released into your blood stream and can possibly inflict mayhem on other parts of your body,” Flax said. This has been linked to serious health risks including but not limited to cardiovascular disease, oral cancer, and Alzheimer’s.

Morning Breath Prevention

Although there is no outright, foolproof prevention for morning breath, there are things you can do to reduce its affect. Brushing, flossing, and scraping your tongue before bed helps clean out the mouth and get rid of food particles so the bacteria have less “food” to munch on.

The Tongue Test

The first step to evaluating if you have bad breath is to see if you have it. Flax recommends doing a visual test by using a mirror to view the back of your tongue. “A pink shiny tongue indicates fresh breath, but if your tongue has a thick white film, it is likely that you have bad breath,” he said.

Another method is to lick your (clean) wrist. Let it dry for a few seconds, and then smell your wrist. If you detect an odor, according to Flax, it is an indicator that you have bad breath.

A simple and commonly employed method is to use a soft bristle toothbrush, tongue scraper, or the edge of a spoon to gently clean your tongue. This is to prevent your tongue from being a hotbed of bacteria. It is less likely the bacteria will harbor in your mouth.

 

The above methods are not meant to replace a dentist visit. You can request your dentist to perform a quick, easy, and painless test of the bacteria in your mouth to determine if you have bad breath. Until then, stay fresh and keep smiling.