Can Medications Cause Bad Breath?

Bad breath can be an unpleasant experience, and not just for the person you’re talking to.

Breath problems can leave you with a constant foul taste in your mouth and even affect your ability to enjoy food. Not to mention making you feel incredibly self-conscious.

Did you know that some medications can cause bad breath? Check out these 5 types of medications that can cause bad breath and what we may be able to do to help!

1. Diabetes medications

Ozempic has become a hot topic in the medical world lately. It’s a weekly injection used to treat Type 2 Diabetes. However, it’s also become a buzzword in the weight loss world, and some doctors are recommending it for off-label use as a weight control aid. Metformin is another diabetes medication that is sometimes used to help people lose weight.

However, both of these medications (and some other diabetes medications) can cause strong halitosis. Why is that?

The link is still being investigated, but signs point to the medication’s effect on gut flora. Both metformin and Ozempic can cause significant changes to the microbiome of your digestive tract. As some microbes die off and others become overgrown, it can lead to unpleasant odors. Because this type of halitosis doesn’t start in the oral environment, even the best oral hygiene won’t make much of a difference.

2. Allergy medications

Especially here in the Sunshine State, we’re constantly bombarded with all types of allergy triggers. For many of us, it’s hard to get through some days without our trusty allergy pills.

As grateful as we are to have that anti-mucus effect kick in, these medications also have a direct impact on saliva flow. While the connection is still a little unclear, best guesses in the medical community are that the cells that control saliva production probably respond to similar chemical signals to the cells that produce unwanted mucus and sinus congestion.

Saliva does a lot of heavy lifting in keeping our mouths healthy and our breath fresh. Good salivary flow cleanses the oral environment, buffers against acid buildup, and can even keep bacteria under control. As your oral tissues dry out, bacteria proliferate, leading to serious smells.

medication bad breath
Is your medication to blame for your bad breath?

3. Blood pressure medications

Blood pressure medications are one of the most prescribed types of medications around. An estimated 1 in 3 US adults have high blood pressure, and a significant portion of those patients have been prescribed medication to control their condition.

Unfortunately, blood pressure medications can cause serious bad breath. Like allergy pills, blood pressure medications can cause a significant decrease in salivary flow and chronic dry mouth. And as we’ve already seen, that leads directly to stinky side-effects.

4. Diuretics

Since diuretics help to remove excess fluid from the body, it stands to reason that this is another medication that can cause dry mouth.

However, this category of medications has an extra side effect that may contribute to bad breath. Diuretics can change the composition of your saliva. This includes changes in the protein content, pH, and buffering capacity of your saliva. An acidic oral environment is a major contributor to halitosis. That acidity can also create a more favorable habitat for odor-causing bacteria, making diuretics a triple-threat for malodor.

5. Psychiatric medications

Antidepressants are another common culprit for causing bad breath because of dry mouth. Tricyclic antidepressants like amoxapine, doxepin, and clomipramine have been shown in studies to create as much as a 58% decrease in salivary flow.

SSRIs like fluoxetine, citalopram, and sertraline don’t cause as much dry mouth as tricyclic antidepressants, but they can still cause around a 32% decrease. It’s also worth noting that they may have other effects on your oral health. SSRIs can cause grinding and clenching habits, so it’s worth talking to your dental team if you take these medications, even if your breath is super fresh.

medication bad breath
Some medications can cause serious odor.

How We Can Help

Don’t stop taking prescription medications because of bad breath!

As unpleasant as this side effect can be, your health and wellbeing come first. Instead, talk to your dental health team here at Lake Baldwin Dental about your malodor concerns.

In many cases, we may be able to help you manage symptoms. As we’ve seen, most bad breath side effects happen because medications can dry out your mouth. We can recommend plenty of solutions for dry mouth, including over-the-counter rinses and gels to keep your oral mucosa moist. Chewing sugar-free gum and staying hydrated can also help.

We can also help you maintain good oral hygiene, which will cut down on odor-causing bacteria and help keep things fresher.

In some cases, we may be able to recommend probiotics to help with gut imbalances or help you build a list of questions to ask your doctor so they can get you the help you need. Keep it fresh, Orlando!