Is It Normal to Wake Up with Wretched Morning Breath?

Here’s what’s actually causing that AM mouth stank.

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Ah, what a beautiful morning. The sun is shining, the birds are chirping, and you’re ready to take on the day. You lean in to wish your partner good morning with a smooch and … GASP. Rejected?!

OK, even though there are few things more embarrassing than being confronted by a significant other about bad morning breath, don’t fret—it happens to the best of us.

What Makes Morning Breath So, Er, Awful?

“Morning breath is particularly bad because we don’t have our natural saliva flow while we’re sleeping,” says Jennifer Jablow, DDS, a dentist in New York City. “Our salivary glands are actually sleeping while we are.”

You may not realize it, but your saliva is your sidekick when it comes to fighting bad breath. With saliva constantly flowing in your mouth during the day, the fluid helps rinse away bacteria on the teeth.

While you snooze, you produce 50 to 80 percent less saliva than when you’re awake, says Dr. Jablow. This creates a very dry, acidic environment where bacteria—and their stinky sulfuric compounds—can thrive. Seven to nine hours later ... hello, bad morning breath.

What to Do About Bad Morning Breath

The most important thing you can do to lessen the wrath of your wretched morning breath is to brush your teeth twice a day—and especially at night.

You see the obvious benefits to brushing your teeth in the AM. Who wants to roll into work with stinky morning breath?

Brushing at night, however, is even more critical for your oral health. “Before you go to bed is the most important time to brush your teeth,” says Dr. Jablow.

During the day your saliva does a pretty good job of flushing away many of the food particles and bacteria that enter your mouth. At night, though, your mouth gets pretty dry, and without an evening toothbrushing session, all that leftover bacteria is able to sit on your teeth and multiply, causing your morning breath to be extra offensive.

Even worse, “you’re also going to become much more prone to cavities,” says Dr. Jablow.

If your bad morning breath just won’t ease up, visit your dentist for a checkup to rule out anything serious that needs medical attention.

“It’s important to see your dentist as a first line of defense to see if you have any gum problems that are developing,” says Dr. Jablow. “If it’s something that’s going on in your stomach, your dentist will refer you to a doctor.” Here are signs your bad breath is something serious.

If your stinky breath is caused by a food you ate or other lifestyle habits (like, ehem, not brushing before bed), you can fix the stank with these dentist-recommended bad breath remedies.