Bad Breath from Stomach Problems

Bad breath can come from a number of places, but did you know you can get bad breath from stomach problems? About half the population suffers from bad breath caused by factors other than food, drinks and cigarettes. Of those, only about 10 percent come from other health issues such as diabetes, liver and kidney disease. The number of people who suffer from bad breath because of stomach problems is even lower. But it is obviously still a huge concern for them.

Here are some ways stomachs can cause bad breath and what to do about it.


In some situations, ulcers caused by bacteria can lead to bad breath. Researchers reported in ScienceDaily confirm that the bacteria known as Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori), which causes a common ulcer in the stomach, can cause bad breath in the mouth. Luckily, antibiotics offer an effective treatment to eliminate the bacteria that cause stomach ulcers.

There is generally conflicting information that ulcers themselves cause bad breath, since H. pylori alone doesn't have an unpleasant odor. However, the above study showed that patients with H. pylori also carried Prevotella intermedia, one of the major periodontal bacteria. If you have bad breath and ulcers, check with your doctor to see if they're related.

Reflux Disease

Another cause of bad breath from the stomach is gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD. This condition is caused by acid coming back up the esophagus, causing a burning sensation in the chest or throat. According to Nemours, one of the symptoms of GERD is bad breath. It can also cause tooth erosion due to the acid in your stomach carrying into the mouth and weakening your teeth. Damage to the throat and oral structures may also allow certain bacteria to grow in the mouth.

Patients with GERD will have other symptoms as well, and should seek treatment separate from dental-related issues. Those who suspect they have GERD should meet with a physician for an evaluation and test for reflux disease. With proper treatment, you can usually say goodbye to your bad breath.

Is it Really That Bad?

Many people who think they have bad breath actually don't. Although you can test for the presence of sulfur, the dentist usually makes the evaluation based on a sniff test. If bad breath is present, check for cavities or gum disease, the treatment of which often succeeds in eradicating bad breath.

If there is bad breath with no presence of tooth decay or periodontal disease, it may be associated with bacteria living on the tongue. If this is the case, it is important for you to brush your tongue by trying a Colgate® 360 toothbrush which has a tongue cleaner on the back of the toothbrush bristles. Consider introducing a mouthwash such as Colgate® Total Advanced Pro-Shield, which allows you to prevent bacteria quickly during the day.

After cavities and gum disease, the third-most common reason for seeking professional dental care is bad breath. If you feel you have it, seek a thorough dental examination. If you're experiencing upper gastrointestinal problems, such as pain or heartburn, a medical examination is also required. You don't have to live with bad breath from stomach problems.

About the author: James Burke Fine, DMD, is Assistant Dean for Postdoctoral Programs, Professor of Clinical Dentistry, and Director of Post Graduate Periodontics at Columbia University College of Dental Medicine, New York. He has been a principal investigator or co-investigator in funded research projects and has authored or co-authored numerous articles, chapters, and abstracts in the literature regarding periodontal disease, including co-authoring the text Clinical Guide to Periodontics. In addition, Fine has presented at invited lectures and seminars. He maintains a practice limited to periodontics in Hoboken, NJ, and in the faculty practice at Columbia University.