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Does Sleep Apnea Cause Bad Breath or Vice Versa?

Posted On January 21, 2014
January 21, 2014

Have you been told you have dragon breath? Or can your breath peel paint off a ceiling? Were you not even aware that your breath smelled like a barnyard? Halitosis or bad breath can cause much embarrassment in all types of social situations and adversely affect relationships. There are a number of reasons why bad breath can develop, including snoring and mouth breathing. So taking this information another step, does sleep apnea cause bad breath or vice versa?

Sleep apnea, specifically obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), is a medical condition in which there is a partial or full blockage of an individual’s airway while he or she tries to sleep at night. Many people who have OSA either snore or breathe through their mouths thus becoming dry as a result.

What Causes Bad Breath?

Bad breath develops because bacteria that do not need oxygen to live (anaerobic) produce gases with one of the main components being sulfur. Think rotten eggs and you can conjure up the exact odor in your mind. When we chew, our food is broken down further courtesy of our saliva. In turn, the bacteria in our mouths produce the sulfur gases. Hence, bad breath odors emerge after a meal if one has not had the opportunity to brush his or her teeth in order to remove the bacteria. While we sleep at night, the bacteria multiply and our salivary glands take a rest. And therefore, another instance of bad breath emerges when people wake up in the morning.


Taking this last fact a step further, it is not surprising to realize that any condition that dries out the mouth—decreasing saliva production—will increase the incidence of bad breath. Saliva is not around to help wash away the bacteria from various locations in the mouth, that is to say, teeth, tongue, palate and back of throat.


Other factors that can increase bad breath are the following:

  • Medications (especially those that cause dry mouth such as antihistamines and antidepressants)
  • Coffee and alcohol consumption
  • Foods such as onions and garlic (naturally contain high amounts of sulfur), cheese and milk (when eaten and broken down produce amino acids that are rich in sulfur)
  • Gastric reflux


What Are Hints to Keep Dragon Breath at Bay?

If you snore, you might have sleep apnea and should seek a proper diagnosis. Treatment of this condition will help decrease the odors that might be a result. There are also a number of other lifestyle tips that can help keep dragon breath at bay:

  • Practice good oral hygiene, which means brushing after meals, flossing at least twice a day, scraping your tongue and using an alcohol-free mouthwash every day.
  • Visit the dentist at least twice a year to have your teeth professionally cleaned.
  • Avoid onions, garlic and dairy products. Choose instead foods with low acid content such as oatmeal, almonds, salmon, skinless chicken and vegetables.
  • Cut down on alcohol and coffee consumption.

If you believe that you might have sleep apnea, please contact one of our medical concierges today at 1-855-863-4537 or schedule a free consultation.

About Phoebe Ochman

Phoebe Ochman, Director of Communications for Sleep Apnea Treatment Centers of America, manages all content and communications for the company.
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