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Bad Breath

Bad breath, or halitosis, is extremely common. Chances are, more than half of the people in any given room, have breath that’s not-so-pleasant.


The source of foul breath is most often the mouth. The causes of bad breath from the mouth include:

  • Dry mouth. Saliva functions like a cleaning agent and keeps mouth bacteria at a manageable level. Dry mouth increases the intensity of the stink (sulfur compounds) released by bacteria in the mouth.

  • Certain foods. Food items can get stuck between the teeth and their breakdown products circulate through our body. Foods with strong odors, such as garlic and onion, can stick around until they are removed, through brushing with flossing, and leave our body.

  • Tongue coating. Food particles and bacteria can coat the tongue. The bacteria can produce smelly sulfur compounds.

  • Oral hygiene. Food debris and bacterial films can accumulate on the teeth and tongue. Inflammation of the gums and bacterial films between teeth can increase the severity of the bad odor.

  • Tobacco. Tobacco users are more likely to have gum disease and oral cancers. Smoking also decreases saliva production.

The remaining 10% of cases of bad breath originate from other sources.

  • Nose and throat conditions. Small bacteria covered stones can form on the tonsils. A foreign object in the nasal cavity can also be a source of bad breath.

  • Respiratory diseases. Conditions that allow for increased bacterial activity along the respiratory tract, such as sinusitis and bronchitis, can lead to tissue destruction and the production of smelly gases.

  • Gastrointestinal diseases. Chronic acid stomach reflux, structural abnormalities at cause food retention along the digestive tract are just some conditions that can contribute to bad odors.

  • Other chronic conditions such as metabolic disorder, liver failure, or kidney failure may cause bad breath.

Ways to keep bad breath in check

The doctor and dentist can determine the cause of the bad breath. In addition to treating the underlying cause, the following lifestyle habits can help maintain fresh breath:

  • Brush twice a day. Brush at least twice a day, preferably after meals.

  • Floss at least once a day. Regularly remove food particles and plaque from between the teeth, preferably after meals.

  • Brush the tongue. Brush or scrape off tongue bacteria.

  • Keep saliva flowing. Drink plenty of water and chew sugar-free gum to prevent dry mouth. Smokers should quit tobacco.

  • Quit tobacco. Quit for the many health benefits, including good oral health.

  • Adjust diet. Avoid food with pungent smelling ingredients like onions.

  • Visit the dentist regularly. See the dentist twice a year to have the teeth examined and cleaned.


Aylıkcı BU, Colak H. Halitosis: From diagnosis to management. J Nat Sci Biol Med. 2013;4(1):14-23. doi:10.4103/0976-9668.107255

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