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Bad Breath From Lungs: Oral Hygiene May Not Be The Cause

Published date field Last Updated:

Medically Reviewed By Colgate Global Scientific Communications

Bad breath, technically referred to as halitosis, is an awkward issue to broach. But don’t worry. Often, it’s simple oral hygiene as the culprit. But even with proper brushing, flossing, and rinsing, sometimes your bad breath stems from a different origin.

What Causes Bad Breath From Lungs

It’s not uncommon for respiratory conditions to create bad breath from your lungs. Identifying those conditions is crucial to help and treat your bad breath. Those respiratory conditions break into two categories.

  • Infections: Conditions like bronchitis, sinusitis, or pneumonia are common short-term infections that can lead to foul breath. When children have bad breath, it’s a good sign, they may be developing one of these short-term infections. Fortunately, recovering from these respiratory conditions also means your bad breath has subsided as well.
  • Chronic Conditions: Some long-term or chronic conditions are often the guilty parties. Three diseases frequently yield bad breath.
    1. Cystic fibrosis patients can experience bad breath as a symptom. Thick mucus in the lungs causes infections, and post-nasal drip leads to difficulty breathing and a foul odor.
    2. Asthma sufferers experience bad breath as many breathe with their mouth, causing dry mouth. Bacteria that cause bad breath love dry mouth, so any condition that causes dry mouth means you are also susceptible to bad breath. Plus, medicated inhalers for asthma can also cause dry mouth leading to bad breath.
    3. Lung cancer has a distinct bad breath odor of its own, consisting of a particular combination of gases exhaled that identify the cancer. The National Center for Biotechnology offers additional information on this phenomenon.

How to Treat Bad Breath From Lungs

Sinus infections, allergies, or post-nasal drips can cause the mucus in your mouth to resemble the smell of mothballs. Fortunately, there are some solutions:

  • Rinse your sinuses with warm water to clear out the mucus from the area
  • Take allergy medication prescribed by your physician
  • Take an antibiotic prescribed by your physician

There are some good treatment solutions for chronic conditions as well.

  • Cystic fibrosis: Try nasal irrigation, antibiotics, or nasal steroids — as recommended by your physician
  • Asthma: Stay hydrated to avoid dry mouth
  • Lung cancer: See your oncologist for specific recommendations

When to Address Concerns with Your Dentist

Don’t stress; be straightforward with your dentist when discussing your bad breath. They’re experienced, professional, and can provide a level of comfort for you on the topic. They’ll also tell you if oral hygiene is responsible or if further medical advice is needed to help turn your bad breath into a good experience.


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This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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