Bad Breath (Halitosis) – By Dr. Nivedita

What is bad breath ?

Bad breath, also known as halitosis, is breath that has an unpleasant odor. This bad breath can be persistent or periodic as well depending upon the cause.This odor is due to the millions of bacteria present in the mouth particularly back of the tongue. The mouth’s warm, moist conditions make an ideal environment for these bacteria to grow. Most bad breath is caused by something in the mouth.
Some types of bad breath are considered to be normal such as morning mouth which is caused due to dry mouth as the saliva that washes away the decaying food and odors during the daydiminshes in the night. The dead cells adhere to the tongue and inside of cheeks. Bacteria use these cells for food and expel compunds which leave a foul odor.


What causes bad breath?

  • Poor oral hygiene
  • Respiratory tract infections
  • Infections in the mouth
  • Xerostomia ( dry mouth )
  • External agents
  • Systemic illness



Often people may or may not know if they have a bad breath unless and until told by someone else.


How to find out?

A dentist or physician may notice the patient’s bad breath while the patient is discussing his or her medical history and symptoms. In some cases, depending on the smell of the patient’s breath, the dentist or physician may suspect a likely cause for the problem.

Your dentist will review your medical history for medical conditions that can cause bad breath and for medications that can cause dry mouth. Your dentist also will ask you about your diet, personal habits (smoking, chewing tobacco) and any symptoms, including when the bad breath was noticed and by whom.

Your dentist will examine your teeth, gums, oral tissues and salivary glands. He or she also will feel your head and neck and will evaluate your breath when you exhale from your nose and from your mouth. Once the physical examination is finished, your dentist may refer you to your family physician if systemic problems are the most likely cause.



Bad breath caused by dental problems can be prevented easily. Daily maintenance calls for brushing your teeth, tongue and gums after meals, flossing, and rinsing with mouthwashes approved by the American Dental Association (ADA). Regular visits to the dentist atleast twice a year should be made for dental examinations and for professional teeth and gum cleaning.

Bad breath also can be combated by drinking plenty of water every day to encourage saliva production. An occasional swish of the mouth with water can loosen food particles. Other products that keep breath fresh and prevent plaque from forming include sugar-free gum, sugarless lozenges, raw carrots and celery.

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