bad breath

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Bad Breath



Bad breath, sometimes called halitosis, is an unpleasant odor of the breath.


Bad breath is likely to be experienced by most adults at least occasionally. Bad breath, either real or imagined, can have a significant impact on a person's social and professional life.

Causes and symptoms

Bad breath can be caused by a number of problems. Oral diseases, fermentation of food particles in the mouth, sinus infections, and unclean dentures can all contribute to mouth odor. Many non-oral diseases, such as lung infections, kidney failure, or severe liver disease, can also cause bad breath, though rarely. Many people think that bad breath can originate in the stomach or intestines; this is extremely rare. The esophagus is usually collapsed and closed, and, although a belch may carry odor up from the stomach, the chance of bad breath being caused from air continually escaping from the stomach is remote. Cigarette smoke can cause bad breath, not only in the cigarette smoker, but also in one who is constantly exposed to second-hand smoke.


The easiest way to determine if one has bad breath is to ask someone who is trustworthy and discrete. This is usually not too difficult. Another, more private, method of determining if one has bad breath is to lick one's wrist, wait until it dries, then smell the area. Scraping the rear area of the tongue with a plastic spoon, then smelling the spoon, is another method one can use to assess bad breath.


The most effective treatment of bad breath is to treat the cause. Poor oral hygiene can be improved by regular brushing and flossing, as well as regular dental checkups. Gentle brushing of the tongue should be part of daily oral hygiene. In addition to good oral hygiene, the judicious use of mouthwashes is helpful. Mouth dryness, experienced at night or during fasting, or due to certain medications and medical conditions, can contribute to bad breath. Dryness can be avoided by drinking adequate amounts of water. Chewing gum may be beneficial.
As mentioned, some medications, such as some high blood pressure medications, can cause dry mouth. If this problem is significant, a medication change, under the supervision of one's health care provider, may improve the dry-mouth condition. Oral or sinus infections, once diagnosed, can be treated medically, usually with antibiotics. Lung infections and kidney or liver problems will, of course, need medical treatment.

Alternative treatment

Depending on the cause, a multitude of alternative therapeutic remedies can be used. For example, sinusitis can be treated with steam inhalation of essential oils and/or herbs.


Most bad breath can be treated successfully with good oral hygiene and/or medical care. Occasionally, for patients who feel that these therapies are unsuccessful, some delusional or obsessive behavior pattern might pertain, and mental health counseling may be appropriate.

Key terms

Halitosis — The medical term for bad breath.



American Dental Association. 211 E. Chicago Ave., Chicago, IL 60611. (312) 440-2500.
American Medical Association. 515 N. State St., Chicago, IL 60612. (312) 464-5000.

bad breath

The condition of having stale or foul-smelling breath. Also called halitosis.

bad breath

A generic term referring to unpleasant odours emanating from the mouth, the intensity of which differs according to the foods eaten, such as garlic, onions, red meat and fish. Other factors include obesity, smoking and alcohol consumption. It is generally worse upon awakening (“morning breath”) because the anaerobic bacteria in the mouth have had hours to proliferate and produce volatiles. Acute bad breath can be addressed by oral hygiene in the form of mouthwashes, brushing the teeth and tongue, flossing, and use of inter-dental brushes. Chronic bad breath affects up to 25% of the population and may be socially or professionally crippling, and, if extreme, may affect one’s self-esteem.

bad breath

Malodorous exhalation. Halitosis. The mouth is the chief source of the odour, but this may also come from the nose, the lungs and, rarely, the stomach.


A foul odor from the mouth.
Synonym(s): fetor oris, ozostomia.
[L. halitus, breath, + G. -osis, condition]


the air taken in and expelled by the expansion and contraction of the thorax.

bad breath
see breath odor (below).
breath odor
characteristic for a species, reflecting their diet. Abnormal or unpleasant odors may be caused by diseased or necrotic tissue in the respiratory or upper gastrointestinal tracts, including mouth and nasal cavity. Diseased teeth are a common cause in dogs and cats. In addition, certain metabolic diseases may produce distinctive breath odor, e.g. ketoacidosis, uremia.
hydrogen breath test
detects the level of hydrogen in expired air as an indication of intestinal bacterial fermentation of carbohydrates. It is used in the diagnosis of inflammatory bowel disease and carbohydrate malabsorption.
breath sounds
can be heard with a stethoscope on the chest and trachea. The normal sounds are the normally very faint vesicular murmur and the louder, tubular sounding bronchial tones. They are made by the air passing through the tubes of the bronchi. Adventitious (abnormal) sounds are the rale, rhonchus, grunt, friction rub, laryngeal stertor, wheeze and peristaltic sounds. Bronchovesicular sounds are intermediate between the two in character and site of origin. The vesicular sounds and the bronchial tones may be increased to the point of being an abnormality. Abnormal sounds are caused by narrowing of the tubes, collection of exudate in them or inflammation of the pleural surfaces.
breath stacking
in artificial respiration, incomplete expiration can result in residual air adding to the volume of the next inspiration with eventual over inflation of the lungs.
breath volume
may be assessed by observation of degree of chest movement and volume of expired air as felt by the hand. A respirometer is more accurate but is not available nor satisfactory for clinical use with animals unless the subject is trained to use one.

Patient discussion about bad breath

Q. What causes bad breath? I have bad breath for a long time. What causes it?

A. Here are some causes of bad breath:
A Dry mouth- Saliva helps cleanse and moisten your mouth. A dry mouth enables dead cells to accumulate on your tongue, gums and cheeks. These cells then decompose and cause odor. Dry mouth naturally occurs during sleep. It's what causes "morning breath." Dry mouth is even more of a problem if you sleep with your mouth open. Some medications as well as smoking can lead to a chronic dry mouth, as can a problem with your salivary glands.
Some Diseases can also cause bad breath- Chronic lung infections and lung abscesses can produce very foul-smelling breath. Other illnesses, such as some cancers and certain metabolic disorders, can cause a distinctive breath odor. Kidney failure can cause a urine-like odor, and liver failure may cause an odor described as "fishy." People with uncontrolled diabetes often have a fruity breath odor. Chronic reflux of stomach acids from your stomach (gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD)

Q. How to get rid of bad breath? My wife complains that I have bad breath. How can I get rid of it?

A. Consider that candida infection can make your breath worse. You might try cutting down on sugar and carbs.

"Bad breath can also be caused by a candida (yeast infection), you may have a constant white furry tongue. Look at cutting down your intake of sugars and processed foods, as well as those containing yeast. - Search for Anti-Candida diet on a search engine for more info"

More discussions about bad breath
References in periodicals archive ?
This is why you often notice bad breath first thing in the morning - because you produce less saliva when you sleep.
With a little luck and help from your veterinarian, your cat's bad breath will be improved and you can go back to enjoying close contact
Bacteria love protein, and a lot of foods are packed with the proteins that bad breath bacteria will rapidly convert to a smelly waste,' says Dr Katz.
Cleaning your tongue gently with your toothbrush is a good way of avoiding bad breath
At least 90 percent of bad breath problems are associated with the sulfurous compounds generated by the putrefying, malodor-forming, anaerobic bacteria, which hide in oral crevices, and which degrade food particles and salivary cell fragments," Kross says.
Extreme dieting - yes, even low-carb diet gurus will tell you that if the diet is working, one of the signs is bad breath.
To prevent bad breath, continue brushing your teeth normally.
She never mentioned it but we figured she knew it was one of us because we put it in her locker the day after our bad breath conversation," she says.
Dentists have the tools to detect and manage advanced periodontal disease and dental decay, and can prescribe salivary stimulants such as pilocarpine and cevimeline for patients with bad breath due to dry mouth.
While it was expected that coffee would cause bad breath, it appears there is some element inside the brew that has the opposite effect.
There are many causes of bad breath and though some may be due to simple reasons, it can also be due to severe infection.