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Bad Breath & Alcoholism

author image Kim Lockhart
Kim Lockhart works for Scottish Television and has been writing professionally since 2008. She has a Higher National Diploma in journalism and a Bachelor of Arts in management and is highly knowledgeable in the fields of health, fitness and alternative medicine.
Bad Breath & Alcoholism
Alcoholics often suffer from bad breath. Photo Credit: denizbayram/iStock/Getty Images

Alcoholics often have bad breath. Alcoholism can cause a number of severe health problems, and bad breath can be a sign of damage to the digestive system and to the stomach. It can also indicate problems with the esophagus and with acid reflux, which can lead to cancers of the mouth and throat.

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Excessive alcohol consumption leads to digestive problems, which add to bad breath.
Excessive alcohol consumption leads to digestive problems, which add to bad breath. Photo Credit: artJazz/iStock/Getty Images

Bad breath, or halitosis, is most often caused by a buildup of bacteria in your mouth. Good oral hygiene normally solves the problem, but in some cases, bad breath is persistent. Causes of chronic bad breath include smoking, eating spicy foods regularly and having a dry mouth. Sinus problems, infections of the mouth, or throat and gum disease can also cause you to have foul smelling breath, though often when the infection clears up, so does the bad smell. Alcoholism also leads to bad breath.


Alcohol is a diuretic. When you consume alcohol in large quantities, it dehydrates you and dries out your mouth. This leads to a reduction in saliva production. Without saliva naturally cleaning your mouth, bacteria forms, which causes bad breath.

Digestive Problems

Good oral hygiene can help to alleviate the problem of bad breath.
Good oral hygiene can help to alleviate the problem of bad breath. Photo Credit: samsonovs/iStock/Getty Images

Problems with your digestive system are a common cause of bad breath, particularly in alcoholism. When you drink alcohol, small particles go into your digestive system and onto your tooth enamel. Every time you breathe out, the smell comes back into your mouth, causing you to have bad breath. Even if you aren't an alcoholic, one heavy night of drinking can you leave you with foul-smelling breath the next day due to dehydration and your digestive system having been affected.


When you drink alcohol, it is absorbed quickly into your bloodstream through the lining of the stomach and the small intestine, so the usual digestive process is ignored. A common effect of this is damage to the esophagus, leading to heartburn and acid reflux, which add to bad breath. Excessive alcohol consumption can also cause repeated retching and vomiting, which gives you foul-smelling breath. Even small amounts of alcohol can increase the amount of gastric acid in your stomach, which damages the stomach lining and also leads to bad breath.


Dehydration in alcoholism leads to halitosis.
Dehydration in alcoholism leads to halitosis. Photo Credit: Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images

Bad breath can be greatly decreased if you keep yourself hydrated. Alcoholics are constantly dehydrated, making their bad breath persistent and chronic, but drinking a lot of water and practicing good oral hygiene, such as brushing your teeth and flossing regularly, can greatly reduce halitosis. An alcohol-free mouthwash can also reduce the problem. Eating a well-balanced diet to keep your digestive system working effectively can also stop foul-smelling breath from occurring.

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