Have you ever had someone whisper to you and instead of listening to what they were saying, all you could focus on was their bad breath? Bad breath happens to the best of us, maybe it was something we ate or maybe it’s been a while since we last brushed our teeth. No matter the reason, being told you have bad breath can feel embarrassing. If you’ve been brushing and brushing and still have bad breath, you might want to consider some other causes.

Food
It’s no mystery that foods like onions and garlic won’t help your breath smell very good. Sure, you can use mint, but the effect will only be temporary. Because your mouth is where food is initially broken down, the odors will linger there the longest—even until all the other foods have passed through your body. Still, the after-dinner mint is recommended.

Tobacco Products
Smoking and chewing tobacco are bad for you. It’s as simple as that, and yet many people can’t break the habit. If you need another health reason as to why you should stop, consider the way it affects your breath. Smoking causes mouth odor that no amount of brushing can cure—the only way to make it stop is for you to quit.

Dry Mouth
Your mouth is a bacteria palace if you don’t clean it often and thoroughly. Something that can make the number of bacteria worse, is dry mouth. Dry mouths lack the necessary saliva to wash away yucky-smelling bacteria. Some people have naturally dry mouths while others bring it on with alcohol. If your mouth feels dry or you’ve had a couple of drinks, be sure to grab a bottle of water. Water can stimulate your mouth into producing more saliva.

Mouth, Nose, and Throat Conditions
If you’ve ever had a bad cold, you know your breath smells bad by the thick mucus you cough up. The conditions of your nose and throat affect your mouth and the way your breath smells. Besides the common cold, strep throat, tonsil stones, bronchitis, and postnasal drip can all leave your breath with a new kind of funk. Many of these sicknesses block your sinuses and the bacteria remain stuck and smelly.

Poor Oral Care
Brushing your teeth and flossing are simple tasks, yet many people overlook the routine. If you have bad breath and aren’t taking care of your oral hygiene, start there. Floss and brush daily—including your tongue—to remove bacteria and to prevent bad breath and mouth infections. Poor oral care can lead to cavities, gingivitis, and cracked teeth—all of which make your breath smell even worse. If you end up having to get a tooth pulled and don’t take care of the area, it could become infected and also contribute to making your breath fouler.

If you’ve been breathing into your hand and are thinking, “I’m good!” you might not be. Breathing into your hand isn’t the same kind of breathing you do when you’re talking. When you talk, your air comes from the back of your throat where your bad breath originates. So when in doubt, swish some alcohol-free mouthwash or chew some sugar-free gum, but most importantly, talk to your dentist about relieving your bad breath.