If you wake up with bad breath now and then, welcome to the majority. Nearly everyone suffers from morning breath at some point, so it's not something to be self-conscious about. However, this condition is caused by dry mouth, which is something you'll probably want to clear up.
That was the thrust of a short Q-and-A written by the editor of Harvard Men's Health Watch, Harvey B. Simon. As the publication's founding editor and an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, he's well-qualified to talk about this common oral complaint.
Basically, as Simon says, morning breath is caused by sleeping with the mouth open, which leads to dry mouth. This state of saliva-lessness allows oral bacteria to run wild, pumping out volatile sulfur compounds. Thus, you wake up and your mouth stinks.
Simon adds that "any medication or condition that reduces saliva flow can do the same." He concludes that "although morning breath is unpleasant, it can be quickly relieved by rinsing the mouth with water."
We would add that it's important to use a good specialty breath freshening mouthwash or periotherapy product afterward, if only to knock out any lingering odors or microbes.
What about morning breath that lasts?
Say your dry mouth triggers halitosis that lasts throughout the day (which is common). What should you do? Simon had a few suggestions. To start, he recommends drinking more water, and so do we. Keeping your mouth moist is one of the easiest ways to prevent excess bacterial growth.
If you don't feel like sipping too much water, you can always choose to chew on a specialty sugar-free gum, especially one that oxidizes the mouth and makes life harder for oral microbes.
Simon also states that brushing, flossing and seeing the dentist regularly are all essential for preventing chronic bad breath and dental decay.
Likewise, drinking alcohol and smoking or chewing tobacco are big no-nos, since they both cause halitosis and increase your risk of several cancers.
Finally, you can chew on mints, but beware. Unless they're the specialty variety, their effects won't last long, as Simon is careful to point out.