Bad Breath (Halitosis) – The Best Beginner Guide

Everyone is affected by breath odour at some point in their lives. Halitosis and fetor oris are other terms for bad breath. Odours can emanate from the mouth, teeth, or as a result of an underlying health issue.

Bad breath odour can be a short-term or long-term issue. According to the American Dental Association, at least half of all adults have experienced halitosis at some point in their lives.

What Are The Symptoms Of Bad Breath?

Bad Breath

You may notice a bad taste in your mouth in addition to a bad smell. If the taste is caused by an underlying condition rather than trapped food particles, it may not go away even if you brush your teeth and use mouthwash.

What Causes Bad Breath?

Poor Dental Hygiene

Bad Breath

Bacteria digest food particles that become trapped in the teeth or mouth. The bacteria and decaying food in your mouth combine to produce an unpleasant odour. Brushing and flossing on a regular basis helps to remove trapped food before it decays.

Brushing removes plaque, a sticky substance that accumulates on your teeth and causes odour. Cavities and periodontal disease can be caused by plaque buildup. If you wear dentures and don’t clean them every night, bad breath can be a problem.

Strong Foods and Beverages

When you eat onions, garlic, or other foods with strong odours, the oils in the foods are absorbed by your stomach during digestion. These oils enter your bloodstream and make their way to your lungs.

This causes an odour in your breath that others can detect for up to 72 hours. Drinking odorous beverages, such as coffee can also contribute to bad breath.


Bad Breath

Cigarette or cigar smoking emits a foul odour and dries out your mouth, exacerbating the odour of your breath.

Dry Mouth

Bad Breath

If you don’t produce enough saliva, you may experience a dry mouth. Saliva aids in the cleaning of your mouth and the reduction of odour.

If you have a salivary gland condition, sleep with your mouth open, or take certain medications, such as those for high blood pressure and urinary conditions, you may experience a dry mouth.

Periodontal Disease

Bad Breath

Periodontal disease, also known as gum disease, develops when plaque on teeth is not removed promptly. Plaque hardens into tartar over time. Brushing cannot remove tartar, and attempting to do so irritates your gums even more.

Tartar buildup can cause pockets, or small openings, to form between the teeth and gums. Food, bacteria, and dental plaque can accumulate in the pockets, resulting in a foul odour.

Sinus, Mouth, Or Throat Conditions

Bad breath odour may develop if you have:

  • a sinus infection
  • postnasal drainage
  • chronic bronchitis
  • an infection in your upper or lower respiratory system

Tonsil stones, which tend to collect bacteria, can also be a source of bad breath.


Unusual breath odour can be a symptom of some diseases. This includes:

  • kidney disease or failure
  • liver disease or failure
  • diabetes
  • sleep apnea
  • gastroesophageal reflux disorder (GERD), which is a relatively common cause of halitosis

How Is Bad Breath diagnosed?

Bad Breath

Your dentist will smell your breath and question you about your problem. They may advise you to make an appointment before brushing your teeth in the morning.

You can expect to be asked about how frequently you brush and floss, the types of foods you eat, and any allergies or diseases you may have. Tell your doctor how frequently you snore, what medications you’re taking, and when the problem began.

In order to determine the source of your bad breath, your doctor will smell your mouth, nose, and tongue.

If the odour does not appear to be coming from your teeth or mouth, your dentist will advise you to see your family doctor to rule out any underlying disease or condition.

What Are The Treatment Options For Bad Breath?

Bad Breath

If bad breath is caused by plaque buildup, a dental cleaning may help. If you have periodontal disease, you may require deep dental cleaning.

Treatment of underlying medical issues, such as a sinus infection or kidney disease, can also aid in the improvement of breath odour. If a dry mouth is causing your odour problem, your dentist may advise you to use an artificial saliva product and drink plenty of water.

How Can I Prevent Bad Breath?

Brushing your teeth twice a day is recommended (while taking care, not to over brush).

Floss at least once a day, making sure to get in between all of your teeth. To kill bacteria, use antimicrobial mouthwash on a daily basis. Brushing your tongue with a toothbrush or a tongue scraper can also aid in bacteria removal.

Staying hydrated can often aid in the elimination or prevention of breath odour. Drink plenty of water to rinse away food particles and keep your mouth moist. Quitting smoking can also help keep your mouth moist and odour-free.

There are several routines that can aid in the prevention of breath odour:

  • Every day, clean your dentures, mouth guards, and retainers.
  • Every three months, replace your old toothbrush with a new one.
  • Every six months, schedule a dental cleaning and examination.

What Health Care Specialists Treat Bad Breath (Halitosis)?

Bad Breath

When you have halitosis, the first place you should go is to your dentist. If your dentist determines that your mouth is healthy, you will most likely be referred to a physician to rule out any underlying health issues.

If you have periodontal disease, you should consult a periodontist, who is a dentist who specialises in gum disease and dental implants.

If you have braces, your bad breath is most likely caused by food getting stuck in them. You can make an appointment with your orthodontist for an adjustment.

Infections or undiagnosed medical problems can cause bad breath in babies and young children. If an infant or young child has bad breath, consult a paediatrician or dentist.

When Should Someone See A Healthcare Professional About Bad Breath?

If proper oral hygiene does not eliminate bad breath, consult a dentist or doctor for a diagnosis if bad breath is accompanied by other symptoms.

  • persistent dry mouth,
  • sores in the mouth,
  • pain or difficulty with chewing or swallowing,
  • broken teeth or dental pain,
  • white spots on the tonsils, and/or
  • fever or fatigue.

Consult a doctor or dentist if you develop bad breath after starting a new medication, having recent dental surgery, or experiencing any other unusual symptoms.

Wrapping It Up

Most of the time, bad breath can be treated and avoided by practising good oral hygiene. It is rarely fatal, and the prognosis is favourable. However, bad breath could be a symptom of a medical condition that needs to be treated.

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