Bad breath (also known as “halitosis”) can be one of the most embarrassing things you have to deal with in everyday life. Not only does it take a toll on your confidence when you talk to other people, but it also makes a bad impression. All in all, it’s an unpleasant thing to deal with.
But having bad breath doesn’t always mean you don’t brush your teeth, contrary to what some people may be quick to assume. If anything, those with the worst bad breath—as in, the kind that smells like poop—try their best to brush their teeth frequently, but still end up with halitosis.
Do you constantly find yourself asking, “Why does my breath smell like poop even after I brush my teeth?” We’re here to help you get to the bottom of your bad breath. Here are nine logical reasons why you might have breath that smells similar to poop even with consistent brushing.
9 Reasons for Poop-Like Breath Smells
1. Gum Disease Caused by Poor Oral Hygiene
Brushing your teeth twice daily is one of the foundations of good oral hygiene. However, brushing is not enough. You also need to floss at least once a day to get rid of all the food debris, plaque, and bacteria that get stuck between your teeth. Why? Because they can cause bad breath.
Poor oral hygiene because you lack the discipline to floss can also lead to gum disease, which can make your breath smell even worse.
Gum disease occurs when the plaque on your teeth hardens into tartar and makes its way down to your gum line. This causes irritation, swelling, and even bleeding in the gums. Another side effect of gum disease of very bad breath from the tartar that has accumulated deep in your gums.
2. An Abscessed Tooth
Did you know that you can get an abscess in your teeth? If there is a bacterial infection deep within the root of your tooth after it decays, a pocket full of pus can start to form. This will cause a lot of discomfort and pain. The drainage of the pus also makes your breath smell like poop.
If you don’t get treatment as soon as possible for an abscessed tooth, the soft tissues around the pus-filled pocket can start to deteriorate. When these tissues break down, they can also release fumes that make your breath smell quite foul and unpleasant.
What’s scary about an abscessed tooth is that it doesn’t show any signs of pain until the infection has turned severe. Always go for regular check-ups and dental x-rays so your dentist can diagnose dental abscesses promptly. They may suggest a root canal or extraction to get rid of the problem.
3. An Obstruction in Your Bowels
Coincidentally, your breath could also smell like poop because of, well, your poop. If there is a bowel obstruction blocking the natural flow of your intestines, it could lead to bad breath. Obstructions can include swallowed items, gallstones, or small tumors and adhesions.
But why does an obstruction in your bowels cause stinky breath?
First, if there is a lot of feces stuck in your intestines because of the obstruction, it may directly affect the odor of your breath.
Secondly, all the food you eat while you have an intestinal obstruction gets stuck in your body because it can’t go down your bowels. These foods can ferment, creating a strong, foul odor in your breath similar to poop or rotten eggs.
Other signs of a stubborn bowel obstruction include bloating, abdominal pain, vomiting, constipation, and having a hard time passing stool. If you suspect that your intestinal tract is obstructed, go to the doctor immediately. If you neglect the blockage in your bowels, they may end up rupturing.
4. Dry Mouth Syndrome
One of the main jobs of saliva is to clean your mouth naturally to reduce bad odors. But if you’re dehydrated and have dry mouth syndrome, you won’t produce as much saliva. As a result, you might end up with bad breath that smells like poop.
Dry mouth syndrome can be caused by many things—mostly aging and medication that limits your salivary glands’ production of saliva.
It also naturally happens in our sleep, since people don’t realize that they leave their mouths open when they catch Z’s, which dries their mouths. That’s why a lot of people have bad breath in the morning.
One thing you can do to prevent dry mouth syndrome is to sip on water constantly to stay hydrated. You can also keep a humidifier in your room while you sleep so that the air you breathe at night isn’t completely dry.
Want to learn more about dry mouth syndrome, its most telling symptoms, and how to manage it? Watch this very informative video that talks all about dry mouth and dehydration:
5. Smoking Tobacco
Smokers are notorious for their bad breath. This is mostly because smoking tobacco makes people more vulnerable to both gum disease and dry mouth syndrome—some common causes of very bad breath.
Aside from that, some of the residues from tobacco products, such as nicotine and tar, can cling to your mouth and stay there. They might linger in your lungs, throat, and tongue after you smoke tobacco. When these chemicals interact with your natural breath, they can cause a foul smell.
If you have bad breath related to smoking, consider quitting. Not only will it help freshen up your breath a bit more, but it’s also good for your overall health and well-being.
6. Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)
GERD—as well as other gastrointestinal issues like acid reflux and prolonged vomiting—can also cause bad breath. When your stomach acid goes back up into your esophagus and throat, it can leave bacteria and acid in your mouth and its pathways, creating a foul, poop-like smell later on.
If your GERD causes you to throw up a lot for hours on end, it can also cause dry mouth. And if your mouth doesn’t produce enough saliva, it can aggravate the smell of your breath.
Those suffering from GERD, acid reflux, or heartburn should always have antacids and other prescription medication to manage their symptoms.
You should also try to avoid the foods that trigger the backflow of acid in your throat to keep bad breath (and the disgusting feeling of acid reflux) at bay.
7. Respiratory Infections
Another cause of bad breath that smells like poop is respiratory infections. If you have bronchitis, tonsilitis, strep throat, or a sinus infection, there might be a lot of bacteria lurking in your mouth and throat. Excess mucus also serves as a breeding ground for new bacteria to form.
The bacteria from these infections can emit volatile sulfur compounds that make your breath smell very unpleasant. It gets even worse when you have a postnasal drip.
When you have a respiratory infection and your nose is clogged, you might also fall into the habit of mouth breathing. Keeping your mouth open like that for long periods can lead to dry mouth, which results in bad breath.
You may also be experiencing bad breath because of ketoacidosis. This condition happens in people with type 1 diabetes. It’s when your blood produces too many ketones, which are acids that are detrimental to your health.
One side effect of having ketones in your blood is acetone breath. When your blood becomes overly acidic, you release the ketones with your breath. This gives your breath a fruity odor, but it can also sometimes be similar to the foul smell of poop.
If you suspect that you have ketoacidosis, consult your doctor on the next steps. You might be given insulin treatments at the hospital to bring your blood sugar down to a normal level.
9. Liver Failure
Liver failure is a very serious condition that constitutes a medical emergency. Signs of liver failure include jaundice, diarrhea, fatigue, nausea, and a build-up of fluid in your stomach and legs. If you are showing one or more signs of liver failure, seek medical attention as fast as you can.
One of the liver’s main jobs is to detoxify the body’s wastes. When your liver starts to deteriorate, you may experience hepatic encephalopathy—a disorder that keeps your body from detoxifying ammonia and other nasty toxins.
Your bloodstream could then be filled with so much bodily waste, ammonia, and toxins that it flows over to your breath, leading to a very bad odor.
There are many reasons why you could still have bad breath even after brushing your teeth. Poor oral hygiene, respiratory and gastrointestinal infections, obstructions in your bowel, ketoacidosis, and many other medical conditions can cause it to smell like poop.
If you have a suspicion of what could be causing your halitosis from the list we rounded up, contact your trusted healthcare provider to see your treatment options. Knowing the cause of your bad breath is one thing, but you need to follow through with a plan to address it once and for all.