7 Causes of Bad Breath in Older Adults

older man peeking around corner and covering mouth in surprise

7 Causes of Bad Breath in Older Adults

As we age, our bodies undergo numerous changes. One issue that often becomes more prevalent as we age is bad breath (halitosis). While bad breath can be embarrassing, the causes are treatable. And, since persistent bad breath can be a symptom of a more serious dental concern, you should never ignore it. Let’s explore what causes bad breath in seniors, and the treatments available. 

Seven Causes of Bad Breath

1: Dry Mouth

Xerostomia (dry mouth) is a common condition, affecting one in five people. Dry mouth occurs when saliva production is reduced. Saliva plays a crucial role in neutralizing acids and washing away the bacteria that contribute to plaque formation. Without proper saliva production, bacteria can easily build up in the mouth and release foul odors, causing bad breath. 

2: A Side Effect of Medications

Many seniors take medications for various health conditions, and some of these medications tend to cause dry mouth as a side effect. Some medications, such as antihistamines and blood pressure medication, can cause chemical imbalances in the body, which may lead to bad breath. 

3: Dentures That Don’t Fit

After the initial adjustment period, dentures and partial dentures should fit comfortably. Poorly fitting dentures are not only painful, but they often create spaces where bacteria can thrive and cause stinky breath. Because dentures eventually wear out over time, make sure to contact your dentist as soon as you notice any changes in the way yours fit. 

4: Oral Infections

Infections in the mouth, such as gum disease and tooth infections, can be significant contributors to bad breath. Older adults with diabetes are more susceptible to oral infections due to high blood sugar levels. Neglecting to clean your dentures can also increase your risk of gum disease and other infections. 

5: Poor Dental Hygiene

Taking good care of your teeth and gums is crucial at any age, but years and years of poor oral hygiene can cause serious damage.  It’s especially important that we maintain good oral care habits as we age. Neglecting to brush and floss properly can cause plaque and tartar to accumulate, leading to bad breath. It also increases the risk of gum disease and cavities, and can eventually lead to tooth loss. 

If you have trouble brushing your teeth due to arthritis or other mobility issues, try switching to an electric toothbrush. They require less hand movement, but will still clean your teeth effectively. And if you’re unable to manipulate string floss, a water flosser is much easier to handle. 

6: Acid Reflux

Gastrointestinal reflux disease (GERD) is a common condition among older adults. GERD causes stomach acid to regurgitate into the mouth, which may cause an unpleasant odor. Stomach acid can also wear down tooth enamel, creating crevices that can easily trap food and contribute to bad breath. 

7: Smoking and Vaping

Smoking or vaping can also cause bad breath, but it’s not just the smell of tobacco or vape juice that makes your breath smell foul. Nicotine use also increases the risk of cavities and gum disease because it weakens your immune system. When left untreated, these conditions can lead to persistent bad breath, as well as other serious consequences. 

How to Treat Bad Breath

  • Stay hydrated to combat dry mouth and flush out bacteria.
  • Practice good oral hygiene to eliminate bacteria by brushing your teeth twice a day and flossing daily.
  • Clean your dentures every day.
  • Floss underneath your dental bridge if you have one.
  • Quit smoking or vaping.
  • Limit alcohol consumption, which contributes to dry mouth.
  • Speak with your doctor about adjusting your medications.
  • Manage GERD symptoms through lifestyle changes, dietary modifications, or medications.
  • Attend your regular dental checkups.

Freshen Your Breath with a Teeth Cleaning in Sun Lakes

Are you due for a dental checkup? At Dr. Saba and Associates, we help adults in Sun Lakes achieve cleaner, healthier, and fresher smiles with preventative dental care. If you’re concerned about persistent bad breath, we’ll get to the bottom of what’s causing it and discuss your treatment options with you. Give us a call at 480-895-2111 today to make an appointment.


Images used under creative commons license – commercial use (3/11/2024). Photo by krakenimages on Unsplash