Do You Have Mothball Breath? – Here’s What You Can Do

One of the most embarrassing moments in life happens when people point out your bad breath. Research surveys have shown that around 80 million people suffer from halitosis.

Mothball breath is an unusual odor which has an unpleasant musty, benzene-like smell, resembling a mothball.


This type of breath usually develops over weeks and months. In other cases, it can appear within days as well.

Unlike the normal bad breath called halitosis, mothball breath doesn’t have an apparent cure. Mothball breath develops as a result of several potential causes. (1)

Although gums, mints, and mouthwashes may temporarily mask your breath, the cure lies in treating the underlying cause.

Treatment of mothball breath takes time as it requires the elimination of one potential cause after another.

In this article, we will discuss the causes of mothball breath and its different treatment modalities.

What is mothball breath?

Mothball breath is an unusual mouth odor that gives a musty, benzene-like smell which overpoweringly smells like mothballs.

This musty smell develops from a wide range of potential causes. Generally, a person may not notice it right away as it takes a few weeks to months to become noticeable. However, in some instances, mothball breath appears within a few days.

What causes mothball breath?

A single factor does not cause mothball breath but a range of different issues. The cause of mothball can arise from oral or medical conditions and even dietary impacts.

Here are some of the causes of mothball breath –

Poor oral hygiene

Oral bacteria are one of the prime factors to cause mothball breath. These sulfur-producing bacteria are present naturally in the mouth. The problem arises when they start feeding on the food particles that are not cleaned from the mouth.

Poor oral hygiene allows the bacteria to duplicate rapidly. As a result, a high amount of volatile sulfur compound is produced by the bacteria that gives out the characteristic odor.


Bad breath is the most common side effect of sinusitis. During a sinus infection, an excessive amount of proteins is produced in the mucus. These proteins become a source of food for the bacteria.

The bacteria breakdown the proteins and produce sulfur-containing compounds as by-products. These sulfur-containing compounds form the cause of mothball breath.


In today’s fitness world, Keto-Diet has become a trend. But have you ever heard of Keto-Breath?

Keto-breath is a pungent odor that a person develops while following a keto-diet. In a keto-diet, the intake of carbohydrates is reduced. As a result, the body starts to burn the stored fat instead of the carbs. 

Such a process increases the production of chemical compounds called ketones. Ketones often have a fruity, but in some cases, they give out a mothball smell. (2)

Kidney conditions

Kidney conditions are a rare incidence to cause halitosis. However, a heavy drinker might develop a mothball breath as a consequence of kidney disease.

Acid reflux

Acid reflux is a process that occurs due to improper placement of stomach acids in the body. Often acid reflux causes a sour or bitter taste in the mouth. Frequent incidence of acid reflux can lead to mothball breath.


Smelly and spicy food is the main culprit to produce bad breath. A large amount of garlic and onion in traditional curries often cause a pungent mothball breath.

What can you do to fix it?

Now that you’ve read about the causes of mothball breath, it is evident that a wide range of factors causes mothball breath. The only way to cure this problem is to treat one cause at a time.

Following are some practical solutions that you can try to get rid of mothball breath –

  • Proper oral hygiene – One of the most natural things to get rid of bad breath is to maintain good oral health. Start by brushing your teeth and flossing it. Do this for a minimum of two minutes each time. An anti-bacterial mouth rinse plays a crucial role in sterilizing your mouth. (3)
  • Consult a primary care doctor and a dentist to rule out the underlying oral and medical issues. Explain to them your concern and take advise on treating the cause.
  • If you are following keto-diet, try to switch to a better diet plan and see if you have better breath.
  • Keep yourself well hydrated. Drinking more water not only cleans your mouth but also flushes out the bacteria and prevents mothball breath.
  • Sugar-free chewing gums are a temporary source to mask the smell until you find out the underlying cause for your mothball breath.

Take away message

Nobody likes to have bad breath. It becomes a moment of embarrassment when someone points out your bad breath in public.

Foul smelling breath is often an indication of ill health. It can be both oral or medical origin.

Unlike halitosis which is caused by a single cause, mothball breath is caused by a range of different factors.

Often the primary cause of mothball breath is sulfur-producing bacteria that increase in number during poor oral hygiene or an infection.


The treatment of mothball breath lies in finding out all the underlying causes and treating them one by one. However, the one treatment modality that should be followed in any case is to have adequate oral hygiene.

Professional consultations also help to detect the exact cause of halitosis and guide you to treat it appropriately.

Now that you’ve read all about mothball breath stay alert and follow the preventive measures to stay away from this oral problem.


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