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Bad breath is one of those things people worry about from time to time. According to the Academy of General Dentistry, more than 80 million people have halitosis. What if your breath smells like mothballs? Does it indicate anything about your overall health? Fortunately, if your breath has this unusual odor, there’s plenty you can do to reduce the smell.

What Causes Bad Breath?

Bacteria and food particles in the mouth and throat cause many cases of bad breath, and eating odorous food is another common cause. Bacteria cling to the teeth, gums, tongue and throat where they feed on sugary and starchy food. The waste these bacteria make causes breath to smell less than fresh. What’s more, a dry mouth makes the problem worse. Saliva washes away bacteria and creates conditions where they can’t thrive; however, in a dry mouth the bacteria remain and make breath sour and unpleasant. Other common causes of bad breath include smoking and chronic conditions like diabetes, kidney disease and gastrointestinal disorders.

Breath That Smells of Mothballs

Sometimes the particular odor of the breath gives a clue to the cause. According to Fox News Health, certain bacteria in the mouth that feed on proteins in mucus produce a chemical called skatole. The International Journal of Oral Science confirms that skatole, a type of diamine, is not the primary cause of bad breath, but does contribute to it. The scent of skatole resembles mothballs, so if your breath smells like mothballs, you may have a condition that causes excess mucus in the mouth. You might have a sinus infection, allergies or another condition that results in mucus running down the back of the throat, also known as postnasal drip.

How to Prevent Bad Breath


Removing the odor-causing mouth bacteria cures many cases of bad breath. When your breath smells like mothballs, you should visit your physician for a checkup. A prescription for antibiotics or antihistamines should clear up the mucus in your throat. When your excess mucus goes away, the chances are so will your bad breath.

Simply flossing once per day and brushing the teeth and tongue twice per day also reduces bad odors in the breath. Use a toothpaste that fights germs for long-lasting fresh breath, like Colgate TotalSF Fresh Mint Stripe Gel toothpaste. Additionally, you can help treat your bad breath at home by drinking plenty of water, avoiding sugary and acidic foods, and trying surprising remedies like chewing fennel.

It can be embarrassing to realize that your breath smells like mothballs, but your physician can help find the cause and prescribe medication that should make the bad smell go away. Afterward, to feel confident that your breath remains fresh and pleasant, look after your oral health with a daily oral care routine and visit your dentist for a professional cleaning every six months.