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What To Do About Mothball Breath

Do you experience bad breath? Don’t worry, you’re not alone — according to SingHealth, one in two people would be affected by bad breath at some point in their lives. But what if your breath smells like mothballs, or what if you have a mothball taste in your mouth? Does it indicate anything about your overall health? Luckily, there are many ways to reduce this odour, and talking with your doctor or dentist can help you identify the specific cause of it. Here, we’ll walk through possible causes and how to efficiently manage symptoms, so you can work towards having fresher breath.

What Causes Bad Breath?

As it turns out, there are a lot of common causes of bad breath — some you may have heard of before (certain foods and smoking), and some may seem a little less familiar (dry mouth, gum disease and medical conditions).

While any one of those conditions could be a cause of your mothball breath, a significant cause of all bad breath comes down to bacteria in the mouth. Hundreds of types of harmful breath-causing bacteria live in your mouth, which is a perfect environment for bacteria to grow. Bacteria that live in the mouth can make compounds with sulphur, giving off a scent of rotten eggs or onion.

When it comes to other sources of bad breath, the causes are varied. If you have dry mouth, your breath odour may result from certain medications or not producing enough saliva. Bad breath from gum disease is traceable to cavity-causing plaque. Finally, your breath’s odour could also be because of a different medical condition, such as a sinus, throat or lung infection, gastric reflux, diabetes and liver or kidney disease.

Breath That Smells of Mothballs

Now that you know the common causes of bad breath, you might be asking yourself: but why does my breath smell like mothballs? While the reasons mentioned above may be causing your breath’s mothball odour, another cause could arise from oral malodour, which, according to a 2016 study published in Journal of Multidisciplinary Care in the United States, is the most common form of halitosis (a term for chronic bad breath). Oral malodour is typically associated with the presence of oral-bacteria-causing sulphur compounds (which again can be stinky). These compounds could come from not brushing and flossing enough or from conditions like gingivitis, periodontitis, dental cavities and tongue coatings. As you can see, bacteria play a crucial role in the odour of your breath and could potentially be the cause of why your breath smells like mothballs.

Beyond your oral hygiene, your breath could also indicate that there are issues from other parts of your body. That’s because your breath has gassy compounds that move from your organs through the bloodstream into your lungs. If you think your breath could be linked to something internally or linked to body odour, talk to your doctor to arrange for a physical examination.

How to Prevent Bad Breath

While bad breath or a mothball smell can be embarrassing, don’t worry — there are easy fixes to reduce the odour.

  • Brushing & Flossing

    Make sure you’re flossing or cleaning between your teeth daily to get the bacteria-causing food particles out of your mouth and brushing twice per day.

  • Mouthwash

    A temporary fix, over-the-counter therapeutic or antibacterial mouthwashes can kill bacteria and neutralise the smell of breath odour.

  • Work on your Saliva Production

    We discussed how dry mouth could be a cause of bad breath — so eating healthy foods that take a while to chew (like carrots or apples) can get more saliva circulating in your mouth. Sugar-free chewing gum can also help.

  • Visit your Dentist or Doctor

    Being concerned about the scent of your breath is normal — and talking to your dentist is the first step to identifying the root cause, whether it’s your diet, saliva or an internal issue. Schedule an appointment, and your dentist may recommend dietary solutions or medications. If you’re concerned – your breath might signify an internal problem – set up a physical examination with your doctor and express your concerns. Like your dentist, your doctor may also discuss dietary solutions or medications.

Bad breath can be outright embarrassing, but you’re not alone! Not only is bad breath (and mothball-scented breath) common, it’s also treatable. The first step is to ensure that your oral hygiene is in check, followed by opening up a discussion with your dentist. From there, you’re on your way to having fresher, healthier breath.