What is halitosis?

Bad Breath, Symptoms, Causes and Treatment for bad breath

Halitosis is the medical term for bad breath. Unpleasant-smelling breath is common and has a host of reasons why it happens to people.


Halitosis can be an embarrassing condition. Sometimes, people do not notice that they have it already. Other people might be the ones who notice it first, which is really a blow to one’s confidence and self-esteem.


You can do a quick self-check for halitosis by licking your wrist, leaving it for a few minutes, then smelling it after a while. You may also ask close family members or friends to assess your breath as you speak to them.

What causes halitosis?

There are six common causes of halitosis in people:


  • Poor oral hygiene


Not having a good oral care regimen can leave bacteria inside your mouth. These bacteria eventually multiply and release gases that contribute to halitosis. To prevent this from happening, establish good personal oral hygiene by brushing teeth twice a day, brushing your tongue, and flossing in-between your teeth.


  • Gum illness


Sore, swollen, or bleeding gums may be a sign of gum disease. These symptoms could also signal halitosis that doesn’t go away.


  • Smoking


Smoking does a lot of harm to your entire mouth as a whole. It can reduce your sense of taste, stain your teeth, and cause gum illness, all leading to bad breath as well.


  • Alcohol consumption


Alcohol’s strong smell tends to stick around your teeth, leading to halitosis. Mouthwash and brushing your teeth after drinking can help curb the issue.


  • Strong-smelling foods


Temporary bad breath could be a result of eating strong-smelling foods such as garlic. Brushing your teeth well and gargling with a mouthwash can help eliminate that temporary halitosis.


  • Crash diets


Crash diets such as carbohydrate-cutting can lead to a fat breakdown, releasing chemicals known as ketones. These have strong smells that can be transferred to your mouth and breath. Eating a normal diet again should resolve the halitosis issue.

What can halitosis be a symptom of?

Halitosis is mainly due to bacterial build-up inside your mouth. It is often caused by poor oral hygiene or by any of the factors we’ve discussed earlier.


But there are a few medical conditions that can contribute to you getting halitosis. These conditions include the following:


Dry mouth


Your mouth produces a smaller amount of saliva than it would normally do. This leads to bacterial build-up inside the mouth, causing halitosis.


GORD (Gastro-oesophageal reflux disease)


GORD happens when your stomach contents flow back up to your oesophagus. It is characterised by burning sensations, sour taste in the mouth, and bad breath.


H.pylori infection


Helicobacter pylori is a bacteria group that can infest the small intestines or the stomach lining. While it may be rare, halitosis may arise from such internal digestive bacterial infections.




Too much sugar in the blood can lead to a condition known as ketoacidosis. It is when the body turns to fat instead of glucose to be used for energy-building. Fats burned can cause an unusual breath smell that is often similar to how nail polish smells.




Bad breath could also be a result of various kinds of infections. One example of which is tonsillitis or the inflammation of your tonsils. Best see a doctor if you think you have an underlying medical condition that causes or exacerbates your halitosis.


Medications that cause bad breath


There are some medications that may also cause bad breath. Alert your doctor if you’ve recently started on a certain medication and you suddenly notice unpleasant changes in your breath’s smell. He can prescribe alternative medications for you to try instead.

How do I treat bad breath?

Any underlying medical conditions must be successfully treated in order to eliminate halitosis in affected patients. But if there are no underlying medical issues, you can follow these tips to help you maintain good oral hygiene:


  • Use fluoride toothpaste to clean your teeth twice daily, preferably in the morning and at night.


  • Include your tongue and gums when you brush your teeth.


  • Floss in-between your teeth to take away stuck food particles.


  • Increase water intake to help flush out and prevent bacterial overgrowth in the mouth.


  • Head to your dentist regularly for check-ups, most especially if you suspect a gum disease brewing in your mouth.


  • Chew on sugar-free gums to increase your salivary production and decrease the number of bacteria in the mouth.


  • Stop smoking and drinking.


  • Eat a normal diet and avoid crash dieting.