a man checking to see if he has bad breath

Q. I have a problem with bad breath though I brush my teeth three times a day and use mouthwash. My dentist said, “It’s not your mouth, which is very clean.”

I have read that a stomach infection with H. pylori bacteria could cause bad breath. What can I do about this?

A. Bad breath may result from gum disease, but there are other causes. Many years ago we spoke with Nobel Prize laureate Barry Marshall, MD. He discovered that the bacterium Helicobacter pylori could cause stomach ulcers. He told us that these germs are behind some cases of hard-to-treat bad breath.

Over the years we have heard from readers who reported success after curing the infection: “When I read about a blood test for a germ in the stomach that causes bad breath and gastritis, I saw my doctor. He hadn’t heard of this but he gave me the blood test. It turned up positive. Now I am fine, after years of bad breath.”

Treating H. pylori requires medical supervision, so you will need to see your doctor. Multiple medications are often required to rid the stomach of this bug.

For more details about this infection and its treatment, we are sending you our Guide to Digestive Disorders.

Join Over 90,000 Subscribers at The People's Pharmacy

Each week we send two free email newsletters with breaking health news, prescription drug information, home remedies and a preview of our award-winning radio show. Join our mailing list and get the information you need to make confident choices about your health.

  1. Tina smith

    I’ve had this issue for years

  2. veer

    Hello, I have this problem for many years, I myself being doctor, it was humiliating to see patients closing nose when I talked to them, nothing changed, even after all possible treatments, being doctor, I thought suicidal.

  3. Eunice J

    I have the same problems as above, my breath is horrible. I paid 300$ for cleaning and still have bad breath, I used zero mouthwash and I still have bad breath after I eat. Somebody, please help us. I know that is is coming from my stomach, I can tell and I have pains in my side. I will check out if it is a bladder infection.

  4. Lemva
    Long island

    After reading all of the comment about halitosis I realize I am not alone. I have had this problem for years. I took the breath test and tested positive. After taking the perscribe medicine I have hope. People are not holding their nose when I speak. I pray this is a life time solution .

  5. Patty B

    If you have H Pylori, please try MASTIC GUM. I took the triple drug formula a couple of years ago after being diagnosed with HP and seemed to be okay. I started having severe stomach pains recently after two rounds of Cipro for a UTI.
    I think the antibiotics upset the balance of bacteria in my stomach and let the H Pylori thrive and return. The last thing I wanted was more antibiotics, so I bought some mastic gum and manuka honey. I took the honey for a week and have been on the mastic for about a month.
    Symptoms went away almost immediately. No side effects either. I’ve also added probiotics to diet.

    • Eunice J

      Where do you find mastic gum and manuka honey? I am willing to try anything.

  6. Max

    Hi Kiron
    If you have read my post, you would know that i was infected with H-Pylori. I underwent triple therapy ( Clarithromycin, amoxicillin, lansoprazole ) for 10 days that had me cured. This is the first line of therapy which worked for me. But this combination could fail if the bacteria you are infected with is resistant to at least one of the two antibiotics in this combination or if you have already had this combination of drugs in the past. But there are 2nd line, 3rd line therapies with different combinations of antibiotics that will have you cured if one fails. But my recommendation is to go with the tested combinations and not mix and match in the hope to cut down on treatment time, as if that fails it will be difficult to identify the next combination in line as you wouldnt know which drug you are resistant against.
    I am not sure what tests you have undergone so far. If you suspect HP to be causing this get a urea breath test or endoscopy done, the later being more effective IMO, but dont go by the blood test results alone. Also in my case I did not have any other symptoms that H Pylori infection comes with other than bad breath, so dont negate on the basis that you are not hp infected just because you dont have the other symptoms.
    All the very best for your treatment !! Any queries let me know

  7. Kiron D.

    Can You tell me, what you did to cure your bad breath ?

  8. CH

    I hear certain foods can effect the stomach acids, you might want to experiment and omit certain foods for example, foods that contain msg ingredient. Also I hear taking 2 teaspoons every other day can change the ph balance in your stomach. Apple cider vinegar are used for many health remedies. You can research this.

  9. mom

    I have had bad breath for years. I have been offered a toothbrush twice. My dentist says it’s not my teeth. So I told the Physician Assistant and lss- I’ve tested positive for H pylori. I’m taking two antibiotics. Hopefully this problem is resolved in 10 more days. I didn’t go to Sunday worship because I just couldn’t handle the hand to the nose this time. I feel the pain that you all express. I know post antibiotic therapy you have to take probiotics to replace the good bacteria. So, I’ll let you all know the outcome in about 15 days. Thx!!!

  10. GB

    Did you ever find a solution? Would really like to know. I have a friend who is really suffering and says she has done these same things for bad breath and still nothing.

  11. Naco

    Hi there. I am writing this in the hope that it will help even one person who has endured the hell of living with halitosis that I have. I have had it my whole life, was teased at school & although no-one in my adult life has come directly out with it, I know that they could smell it.
    I was totally aware of it as I’m such a hygienic person. I visited dentists, doctors, ENT clinics all of whom said I was fine. I wasn’t fine, I was dying inside because of this horrible illness, I would to anything to avoid being up close & personal to people, even though I longed to be & would avoid social situations where I knew I would be too close to anyone. When my son was 6yrs old, I noticed he had it too, I knew I had to do something…..
    It’s taken years of research & persistence but finally I can see some light at the end of the tunnel…., my GP agreed to do some tests & it turns out that my so. & I both have Helicobacter a Pylori, a bacterial infection of the stomach. I have just completed a triple therapy & the difference I feel is unbelievable. Previously my tongue was always coated with foul smelly stuff, that got worse when I ate anything creamy ie, yoghurt, chocolate, milk etc. this has now completely disappeared & my tongue is clear.
    In the morning I used to be able to smell my own breath, this has also stopped!!!! I am praying this is long lasting. My son has been taking his course for a few days & his bad breath seems to have disappeared, I used to be absolutely foul in the morning & again hopefully this has gone for good!!!!! Hope this helps someone xxxxx

    • shbk

      I almost cried when i read your testimony. I too long to be close to people but I cant because of my bad breath. But I am glad to hear that you have a son. I wish I was a father. I just don’t want to live anymore. Its so unfair that I suffer from this terrible curse. I will mention this Candida theory to my doctor but I know he wont be interested as he doesn’t suffer like we do.

  12. Jay

    People still posting on this?

  13. filipinagirl

    hi atm, how are u ryt now? are u bad breath free? I’m from Philippines.. I’ve been suffering this for 2yrs now. its been hard for me because I was married.. hope to hear from you and your breath stories..

  14. filipinagirl

    hi nessi, are u ok now? I also have same problem wth you it feels so sad, my daughter would say I smell bad.. hope u could reply or email me. tnx

  15. John T.

    That is AWESOME news, MAX! Unfortunately, my breath test came back negative for H Pylori. I am now crossing my fingers for a positive result on the stool test (which I should get in a week).
    Just curious: what was your regimen that cured the H Pylori? I’ve read that some therapies do not cure it completely. I will try to talk my doctor into giving me your regimen. And, again, THANK YOU!!!

  16. Max

    Hi John
    I am cured of it completely. The medication showed results almost immediately..
    I wish you all the very best.. Never lose hope, stay positive and you will get out of it sooner than you think..

  17. John T.

    Max — How did your triple treatment go? Did you find a functional cure? Again– thank you so much for sharing. It really is helpful to know we’re not going through this alone.

  18. John T.

    Thank you so much for this informative post. SO MUCH! it has been so helpful. I am going to see the doctor tomorrow — and never have I wish so much for a positive test for an infection!

  19. dirie

    please let me say too all of its inspirational how we all survive with such a major social block and barrier its depressing and sometimes this issue of bad breath which personally for myself have had for over two years now has taken me to a darker side of myself that I didn’t know existed.
    I’m due to see an ENT doctor but here in london that takes forever so my advice for you is when you do get the chance to see your local gp and doctors is to make sure you express yourself and how bad your suffering. I just found how from a stool test sample which tested positive for some kind of bug in my stomach the way you would know if we share problem is that your inside also feels weak and you get hungry quick. So it is some kind of infection so I’m having a blood test coming up soon I’m currently under going a gum treatment and am due to see my ent I have had all my wisdom teeth removed except for one which I need to have done. It could also be my tonsils which sometimes add to the smell. Bad breath is a difficult problem to find the source but my advice to you is too keep trying and try your best to keep your head up. do not stop being social and believe in yourself that you will over come and that one day there is going to be light in the tunnel.

  20. john

    Where can I get mastic gum and manuka honey? Pls help. Thanks

  21. Rahim

    I need feedback on the outcome of your bad breath treatment. My name is rahim and live in london. I duffered from bad breath many years and depressed all d time pls help

  22. john

    I also suffer bad breath. I would like to know d outcome of ur treatment. Please sdvice me what to do to treat my breath problem. Im so depressed. Thanks

  23. marlene

    Thanks everyone esp Max. I am 37, and have been struggling since 2003, and when I spoke to my doctor-he dismissed me and said he think my problem is psychological as he does o0t smell my breath. I know my breath stinks coz most people hide their nose when I speak to them and move back with 100 questions on their faces. Those who don’t, I am convinced they do have sense of smell.
    My tongue is forever white coated, I removed my tonsils in 2004 as per my ENT advice that tonsil stones causes smell now it is worse. I will see my doctor and request and endoscopy as Max advices as all blood tests and dentists tests came out negative.
    The truth is if you do not have this problem, or sm1 close to you has the problem you cannot relate. What makes me sad is that colleagues are highly offended by this, they somehow assume you are untidy and you are polluting the working environment.
    I have tried it all…. sinus rinsing, gargle with hydrogen peroxide and baking soda nothing worked… what worked a bit was taking acidophillus vitamins ( with 3billion living organisms)+ activated charcoal tablets…the white thrush on my tongue disappeared and the smell was fresh but after 10days- the breath smelled again. I will try Endoscopy and give u guys feedback and I urge everyone to try this breath test.

  24. alexis

    I’ve struggled with bad breath for over 7 years! I brush my teeth 3 times a day, floss and scrap my tongue. my dentist says my gums and teeth are fine and the white coating I have on my gum is normal. but its somehow turning my gums white which doesn’t seem normal to me. sometimes I get a bad smell from my stomach too. I’m guessing maybe tha’ts why my breath smells but not sure. when I tell my doctor she doesn’t do anything. what kind of test should I ask her to do?

  25. MM Lady

    HMP have you ever tested for H. Pylor? I’ve tested negative twice for the blood test, but I’ve heard recently that the breath (urea) sp? test is more accurate. I know my problem comes from my stomach. I have a lot of lower abdominal discomfort and I’ve had severe pain in my side for the past several years. The doctors say this could just be gas but I have that pain even when I fast for up to several days.
    Have you tested for a bladder infection? I also plan to do that.
    My biggest problem is I wish I could stay home and lock myself in a room. I would be living on the street. I have no other choice but to try and work but this problem gets so bad that people will eventually find an excuse to get rid of me or the harassment is so bad I end up leaving on my own. The smell spreads a good ten feet around me and it’s humiliating because people all know it’s coming from me. One day the entire office called HR the smell was so bad. The supervisor came over and said I could leave early that day. It’s just a horrible way to live.

  26. HMP

    Halitosis is a very brutal problem that I’ve suffered with now for over 20 years and counting. I’ve gotten my tonsils removed, teeth pulled, taken every test there is to take, to no avail. I would wake up and brush for minutes, gargle, scrape my tongue, and floss until I was in pain sometimes. Then, right after I’d go and comb my 5 year olds hair for school, (and we all know how honest kids can be), and she’d say, “Ooh mom, did you brush this morning?”. This hurt!
    The Doctors are really not sincere in their concerns or efforts. If you don’t experience the pain and embarrassment of halitosis then you can’t relate. My husband of 15 years knew my pain and suffering because I would never leave the house. The Internet and t.v. were my best friends. Tried to get jobs and was well aware of the looks and comments. I have given up on medications and doctors. I do pray that one day God will lead me to the culprit that has taken over my happiness and my life.
    Good luck to everyone and God be with you!

  27. MM Lady

    I also have suffered w/bad breath for now 8 years. I’m planning to take the breath test soon. It is more reliable — my blood test have come back negative.
    The stigma and taunts have been brutal on a daily basis from co-workers, family or whoever. It never stops unless you stay locked behind closed doors.
    Donna did you try only one treatment of antibiotics. I read on another site that a woman tried the triple therapy ‘Prevpac’ and when it didn’t work she went back to her doctor and he prescribed her Augmentin and Metronidazole and that worked. On another case the person was prescribed antibiotics that didn’t work. She went back and the doctor gave her a stronger and longer prescription of the same and it worked.
    I just wonder if it’s a matter of changing or upping the prescription. The good thing is at least many of the people here have a diagnosis for this nightmare. The rest of us don’t know where to turn or what’s causing this and we’re practically OD’ing on supplements and herbal supplements! That garbage doesn’t work for a problem as severe as this.

  28. Donna

    I have had bad breath forever. Tested positive for H Pilori, did the treatment but still have the problem. I know it comes from the stomach as I can almost smell it myself if in a confined area and have been talking for awhile.
    I have used apple cider vinegar for awhile but not sure it helped. But will try it again.
    See a dentist twice a year and asked him about the problem but not receive much help.
    See my family Doctor, have had an upper GI but nothing shows up. Is it possible that I will always have this?

  29. AP

    Hi. I had this problem too, very bad breath despite ALL efforts (including about 10 rounds of various antibiotics) From flossing obsessively I figured that bad breath was coming from between only 3 particular teeth. Interestingly enough, those were 3 exact teeth that a certain not so good dentist fixed years ago. After I spent a couple of thousand of dollars on new fillings and enormous amount of time on being suicidal, I ended up pulling those teeth out in a course of 4 years. I should have done it earlier!!!! The last one I took out about two months ago and the smell has been gone without me taking any medicine. I keep my fingers crossed.
    I must say it was not easy to convince my new dentist to take the teeth out because there was nothing wrong with them on the outside. I told them I had a cracked tooth syndrome. My theory is that it’s some kind of yeast. I don’t know if I still have it. Honestly, I am a little paranoid that my other teeth may get infected. That did not happen yet but I carry floss with me and floss after every meal.

What Do You Think?

We invite you to share your thoughts with others, but remember that our comment section is a public forum. Please do not use your full first and last name if you want to keep details of your medical history anonymous. A first name and last initial or a pseudonym is acceptable. Advice from other commenters on this website is not a substitute for medical attention. Do not stop any medicine without checking with the prescriber. Stopping medication suddenly could result in serious harm. We expect comments to be civil in tone and language. By commenting, you agree to abide by our commenting policy and website terms & conditions. Comments that do not follow these policies will not be posted.