Tips to Manage Bad Breath with GERD

Tips to Manage Bad Breath with GERD

Published on Tuesday, August 16, 2022 by Brooke Orr

An often overlooked symptom of GERD- Bad Breath can be such a bummer!

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a chronic condition that affects millions of Americans. It is commonly associated with a bitter bile that creeps up the throat into the mouth after meals. A less talked about, yet common, marker of GERD is halitosis (bad breath). The digestive process is designed for food to be broken down in the mouth, swallowed, travel down the esophagus and into the stomach where digestive juices help to continue the process. Reversing this process can cause bad breath in two ways.  

The first, acid seeps into the mouth, surrounds the teeth and leads to erosion and rotting. The second way occurs when regurgitated food and gastric juices deposit in the esophagus and mouth, are left untreated and cause an overgrowth of bacteria. 

Most people have experienced bad breath and one time or another, but chronic bad breath caused by GERD can be embarrassing, contribute to social anxiety, and increase isolation (J Gen Intern Med., 2008). You will find bad breath remedies below and please remember to discuss these with your dentist and doctor.  

Bad Breath Remedies

Start at the root

If the cause of the bad breath is reflux- the best fix is to reduce those episodes.

  • Make sure to take medications as prescribed- ask your doctor or pharmacist how to best time your medication for maximum results. 
  • If you smoke, consider quitting as soon as possible- and avoid secondhand smoke as well. 
  • Aim to move at least 30 minutes per day, this can be broken up into shorter bursts of activity. 
  • Understand your trigger foods and beverages and try to avoid them when possible.  

Focus on dental hygiene

  • Visit the dentist at least twice per year. The Mayo Clinic has a good resource on what types of questions your dentist could ask you about your medical history so you can get the care you need.
  • In between visits brush and floss after each meal, and after experiencing reflux. 
  • Your dentist may also recommend brushing your tongue and using an antimicrobial mouthwash.  

 Avoid dry mouth

Hydration is important for optimal bodily functions- even the mouth. Saliva helps keep odor causing bacteria moving out of the mouth, and adequate hydration aids in the release of saliva into the mouth. 

  • Aim to drink a minimum of 64 ounces of water daily. The best sign of hydration is to monitor your urine– the goal is clear to light yellow.
  • Chewing gum and hard candies may help keep the mouth moist as well.  

 Additional Interventions

It has been suggested that avoiding certain foods such as garlic, onion, cabbage, radish and cauliflower may help reduce the bad breath, whereas increasing the intake of fibrous fruits and vegetables such as pineapple and carrots (particularly at the end of meals) can help decrease the prevalence of bad breath (Oral Dis., 2011).

Also, studies looking at the relationship between GERD and bad breath have found that people who have a higher consumption of alcohol and tobacco use also report increased incidence of halitosis, both of which are known triggers for acid reflux/GERD (J Gen Intern Med., 2008).


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