Senior Home Care Blog - Western Cook & Eastern DuPage Counties

Don't Let Bad Breath Get in the Way of Your Holiday

By Mary L. Doepke, RN

With the holidays come many opportunities to socialize. While you’re choosing the perfect outfit and primping your hair for that party or holiday open house, don’t forget to also take steps to ensure that you won’t offend your family and friends with a case of bad breath.

Bad breath can be a problem at any age, but it often becomes more common in older adults. Here’s a look at three common causes of bad breath, and what you can do to freshen it up.

Dry Mouth

Saliva does more than just wet your whistle. It also helps to keep your mouth clean. When the mouth doesn’t have enough moisture, bacteria can breed, leading to a foul odor known as bad breath.

Older adults are especially prone to dry mouth because many medications can cause the condition. Drinking caffeine or alcohol, eating spicy foods and smoking also can rob the mouth of its necessary moisture.

To combat this problem, try chewing sugar-free gum or sucking on sugar-free candy to stimulate salive flow. Avoid mouthwashes that contain alcohol. Instead, look for a moisturizing rinse or an over-the-counter saliva substitute.

Using a humidifier at night may also help.

Hygiene and Dental Health

A dirty mouth is a stinky mouth. But many people don’t realize that brushing or even rinsing with mouthwash might not be enough.

Bacteria can thrive on the tongue and in the gums. To keep these areas clean, use a tongue scraper and floss.

If you wear dentures, be sure to clean them thoroughly and regularly.

Be sure to visit a dentist at least once a year and preferably twice a year. Mouth infections can cause far worse problems than bad breath. Seeing a dentist regularly is important to your overall health.


Frequent heartburn can mean gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), and GERD can mean bad breath.

While a link has been shown between GERD and halitosis, the reason behind this correlation isn’t clear. But if you think your heartburn might be linked to your bad breath, see a doctor. With medication and lifestyle changes such as those discussed above, this embarrassing problem can often be controlled.