How to Beat Morning Breath

What causes it? Why does it have to exist? Why hasn’t a clever person in America or China figured out how to kill it yet?
couple in bed morning breath
Photo: Chris Bethell

No matter how much time we put in at the gym, or the military discipline we apply to our skincare regime, there is one bodily peculiarity that we all share with even the most pampered and plucked celebrity: morning breath.

One of the most distinctive odours known to man, the smell itself doesn't seem to differ from person to person, but the same can't be said for the severity. You can brush and gargle all you like; occasionally life will catch you out, and you will wake up with the kind of breath that knocks dogs unconscious and makes children cry. But what is it that causes morning breath? Why does it have to exist? Why hasn't a clever person in America or China figured out how to kill it yet? And why do some cursed souls get stuck with it all day long?


Why Do We Get Morning Breath?

Let's get to the science. When we sleep, our bodies dutifully set about implementing the physiological responses to whatever they’ve been exposed to throughout the day. It doesn’t matter what you eat, the body's truth will always out itself via the mouth when the minty ruse of your toothpaste wears off.

Dr Milad Shadrooh, also known as "The Singing Dentist", is semi-famous for looking after the mouths of some other semi-famous people who live in this country. I asked him what causes morning breath. "There are many possible causes as to why we get morning breath, but the two main ones are having a dry mouth and poor oral hygiene," he said.

Other causes include certain types of medication, exercise, acid reflux, sinusitis and gum disease, all of which encourage the release of chemicals within our bodies that add to that foul, foul smell.

Another explanation is that, during sleep, our mouths will naturally open. The consistent passage of oxygen and carbon dioxide through our throats results in us getting a dry mouth. If you're the sort to eat or smoke before heading to bed, without going anywhere near a toothbrush, speculate no further and trust in the knowledge that your oral hygiene is violently subpar.

Where Does Halitosis Come from?

Leah and Cassidy recently got into a relationship, before Leah started battling a type of morning breath she couldn't shake. This is better known as halitosis, which – in barely penetrable medical jargon – means bad breath. "I don't really remember it ever being this bad – all I know is that I just bagged myself a new Mrs and was constantly chewing gum around her because my breath would kick and stay like that all day," she told me.


"There were a few changes in my lifestyle that I could possibly blame, such as going out, drinking more than usual and trying new foods; all the usual things you do when you start dating someone. After the third consecutive month of spending my days with halitosis, I stopped eating spicy and smelly foods and calmed down on the alcohol, but nothing seemed to change. I decided to go to my GP because it became increasingly difficult to avoid giving Cass a kiss in the mornings, and she started to feel like I was losing interest in her, when really, I just didn't want to open my mouth. I still suffer with halitosis, which is a nuisance when it comes to speaking to work colleagues or meeting new people. But looking at the positives, my bond with Cass is a lot stronger since telling her."

In a freakish display of candour, Londoners on their daily commute happily agreed to speak to me about their most iconic encounters with morning breath.

"It's the hot, stale breath on my cheek, alongside being on a packed morning Central Line train, that I can't take," whinged Katrina from Epping. For Liam from Waltham Forest, my mention of morning breath produced a Proustian reminiscence of an old flame kicked to the curb because of her repugnant mouth smell. "I felt like a bit of a prick when I broke off contact with her, because she was a really nice girl, but how do you tell a woman that her breath in the morning makes your cock shrivel?" he said, delicately.


Morning breath, on the whole, is completely commonplace and nothing to feel embarrassed about. But anyone worried about the effects of the ailment should seek dental help, while Dr Shadrooh has provided a useful list of preventative measures.

How to Beat Morning Breath

1. Maintain good oral hygiene by brushing twice daily, cleaning in between the teeth effectively and scraping the top surface of your tongue. Use a mouthwash dedicated to combating bad breath afterwards.

2. Stay hydrated, especially prior to bedtime.

3. Don't eat smelly foods like onion, garlic or dairy.

4. Don't smoke and don't drink alcohol, especially before bed.

5. If you wear retainers or clear braces, make sure they are clean before wearing them through the night.

6. Make sure there are no underlying gum disease issues by getting regular check-ups with your dentist.

7. If you still get it, see your GP to rule out any stomach or reflux issues.