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What is bad breath (halitosis)?

An approximate 25 percent of individuals are affected by bad breath. There are a variety of potential causes of halitosis, but oral hygiene is responsible for the vast majority.

It is sometimes referred to as fetor oris, or halitosis. Halitosis can cause severe discomfort, humiliation, and anxiety, but it can be remedied relatively quickly.

The possible origins of bad breath, diagnosis and how to treat it will be explored in this post.

Important Facts about Bad Breath

Some key points on bad breath are here. The main article provides more comprehensive and supporting material.

  • It is estimated that bad breath affects 1 in 4 individuals globally.
  • Poor oral hygiene is the most prevalent cause of halitosis.
  • If food particles are left in the mouth, sulfur compounds are formed by their breakdown by bacteria.
  • It can reduce mouth odor by keeping the mouth hydrated.
  • Daily brushing, flossing, and hydration are the best remedies for bad breath.


bad breath (halitosis)

A common issue that can cause severe psychological distress is bad breath. A variety of prospective causes and therapies are available.

Anyone can suffer from bad breath. 1 in 4 individuals are estimated to have bad breath on a daily basis.

Halitosis, after tooth decay and gum disease, is the third most common factor that people seek dental treatment.

The problem can also be solved by easy home remedies and lifestyle improvements, such as enhanced oral hygiene and quitting smoking. However, if bad breath continues, seeing a doctor to search for underlying causes is advisable.


Strong oral hygiene is the safest technique to minimize halitosis. This allows the prevention of cavities and decreases the risk of gum disease.

Twice a year, it is recommended that people visit the dentist for a check-up and cleaning.

A toothpaste that contains an antibacterial agent or antibacterial mouthwash may be recommended by the dentist.

Alternatively, professional cleaning may be required to flush out the build-up of bacteria in pockets between the gums and teeth if gum disease is present.


Possible causes of bad breath include:

  • Tobacco: Tobacco products produce mouth odor of their own kind. In addition, they increase the chances of gum disease that can cause bad breath as well.
  • Food: Odors can be caused by the breakdown of food particles trapped in your teeth. Some foods can also cause bad breath, such as onions and garlic. Their breakdown products are transferred to the lungs in the blood after they are digested, where they can influence the breath.
  • Dry mouth: Saliva cleans the mouth naturally. Odors can build up if the mouth is normally dry or dry because of a particular disease, such as xerostomia.
  • Dental hygiene: Brushing and flossing ensure that tiny particles of food that can build up and break down slowly and create odor are eliminated. When brushing is not routine, a layer of bacteria called plaque builds up. This plaque can irritate the gums and, called periodontitis, cause inflammation between the teeth and gums. Also, dentures that are not regularly or adequately washed can harbor halitosis-causing bacteria.
  • Crash diets: Halitosis can be produced by fasting and low carbohydrate eating programs. This is due to the breakdown of chemicals called ketones, which contain fats. There’s a heavy fragrance to these ketones.
  • Drugs: Some medicines may decrease saliva and, therefore, increase odor. As they breakdown and release chemicals in the breath, other drugs can produce odors. Nitrates used to treat angina, certain chemotherapy chemicals, and some tranquilizers, such as phenothiazines, are examples. Individuals who take large doses of vitamin supplements can also be prone to bad breath.
  • Conditions of the mouth, nose, and throat: Small, bacteria-covered stones may often grow on the tonsils at the back of the throat and cause odors. Infections or inflammation may also cause halitosis in the nose, mouth, or sinuses.
  • Foreign body: If they have a foreign body lodged in their nasal cavity, especially in children, bad breath may be induced.
  • Diseases: Due to the unique mix of chemicals they make, certain cancers, liver failure, and other metabolic diseases may cause halitosis. Because of the regular reflux of stomach acids, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) can cause poor breath.

Rarer causes of bad breath
The most common explanation for bad breath, as described earlier, is oral hygiene, but other situations may also be to blame.

More rare causes of bad breath are:

  • Ketoacidosis: When people with diabetes have extremely low levels of insulin, their bodies can no longer use sugar and start using fat stores instead. Ketones are produced and build up when fat is broken down. When present in large quantities, ketones can be poisonous and produce a distinctive and unpleasant breath odor. Ketoacidosis is a disease that is extreme and possibly life-threatening.
  • Bowel obstruction: If there has been a prolonged period of vomiting, breathing may smell like feces, especially if there is a bowel obstruction.
  • Bronchiectasis: This is a long-term disease in which the airways are wider than normal, causing mucus to accumulate, resulting in bad breath.
  • Aspiration pneumonia: A swelling or infection in the respiratory system or airways due to inhaling vomit, saliva, food, or liquids.


Depending on the cause of the problem, the exact breath odor may vary. Asking a good friend or relative to gauge your mouth odor is best, as it can be hard to test it yourself.

One way of testing the odor if no one is available is to lick your wrist, leave it to dry, and then smell it. It is possible that a foul smell in this region of the wrist would indicate that you have halitosis.

Even though they may have little or no mouth odor, certain individuals are worried about their breath. This condition is known as halitophobia and can lead to mouth-cleansing behavior that is obsessive.

Home treatments

Bad breath Oral hygiene Treatment
The secret to most problems of bad breath is oral hygiene.

Other improvements to diets and home remedies for bad breath include:

  • Clean your teeth: Make sure to brush your teeth at least twice a day, preferably after every meal.
  • Floss: Flossing from between the teeth eliminates the build-up of food particles and plaque. Brushing cleans just about 60 percent of the tooth’s surface.
  • Clean dentures: Anything that goes into your mouth should be washed as prescribed on a regular basis, including dentures, a bridge, or a mouth guard. Cleaning keeps the bacteria from building up and going back into the mouth. For similar reasons, changing your toothbrush every 2 to 3 months is also necessary.
  • Brush tongue: The tongue normally accumulates bacteria, food, and dead cells, especially in smokers or those with a particularly dry mouth. A tongue scraper can be helpful at times.
  • Stop mouth dryness: Drink plenty of water. Stop tobacco and alcohol, all of which dehydrate the mouth. It may help stimulate saliva development by chewing gum or sucking a sweet one, ideally sugar-free. If the mouth is chronically dry, medicine that promotes saliva flow can be administered by a doctor.
  • Diet: Avoid garlic, onions, and spicy foods. Sugary foods are linked to poor breath as well. Lower the intake of coffee and alcohol. It can help to clean the back of the tongue by eating a breakfast that includes rough food.

If, after monitoring these variables, breath odor remains, it is recommended that a person visits a doctor for further testing to rule out other conditions.


Sometimes, on a six-point severity scale, a dentist can literally detect a person’s breath with suspected halitosis and rate the odor. As this region may also be a source of the aroma, the dentist may scratch the back of the tongue and smell the scrapings.

There are a number of specialized detectors that can more accurately measure odor.

They include the following:

  • Halimeter: This detects sulfur levels that are low.
  • Gas chromatography: Three volatile sulfur compounds are calculated by this test: hydrogen sulfide, methyl mercaptan, and dimethyl sulfide.
  • BANA test: This test tests the concentrations of a particular enzyme released by halitosis-causing bacteria.
  • Beta-galactosidase test: It has been found that levels of the beta-galactosidase enzyme associate with mouth odor.

Then the dentist will be able to determine the possible cause of the bad breath.

Chukwuebuka Martins

Chukwuebuka MartinsĀ is a writer, researcher, and health enthusiast who specializes in human physiology. He takes great pleasure in penning informative articles on many aspects of physical wellness, which he then thoroughly enjoys sharing to the general public.