October 2, 2022

Bad breath affects an estimated 25 percent of people. There are a number of possible causes of halitosis, but the vast majority come down to oral hygiene.
It is also known as halitosis or fetor oris. Halitosis can cause significant worry, embarrassment, and anxiety but it is relatively easy to remedy.
This MNT Knowledge Center article will discuss the potential origins of bad breath, diagnosis and how to treat it.
Here are some key points about bad breath. More detail and supporting information is in the main article.
Bad breath is a common problem that can cause significant psychological distress. There are a number of potential causes and treatments available.
Anyone can suffer from bad breath. It is estimated that 1 in 4 people have bad breath on a regular basis.
Halitosis is the third most common reason that people seek dental care, after tooth decay and gum disease.
Simple home remedies and lifestyle changes, such as improved dental hygiene and quitting smoking, can often remove the issue. If bad breath persists, however, it is advisable to visit a doctor to check for underlying causes.
The best method to reduce halitosis is good oral hygiene. This ensures that cavities are avoided and reduces the likelihood of gum disease.
It is recommended that individuals visit the dentist for a check-up and cleaning twice a year.
The dentist may recommend a toothpaste that includes an antibacterial agent or an antibacterial mouthwash.
Alternatively, if gum disease is present, professional cleaning may be necessary to clear out the build-up of bacteria in pockets between the gums and teeth.
Potential causes of bad breath include:
As mentioned earlier, the most common reason for bad breath is oral hygiene, but other situations can also be to blame.
Rarer causes of bad breath include:
The specific odor of breath can vary depending on the cause of the problem. It is best to ask a close friend or relative to gauge your mouth odor, as it can be difficult to assess it yourself.
If no one is available, one way of checking the odor is to lick your wrist, leave it to dry, and then smell it. A bad smell on this area of the wrist is likely to suggest that you have halitosis.
Some individuals are concerned about their breath even though they may have little or no mouth odor. This condition is called halitophobia and can lead to obsessive mouth-cleansing behavior.
Other lifestyle changes and home remedies for bad breath include:
If breath odor persists despite controlling these factors, it is recommended that an individual visits a doctor for further tests to rule out other conditions.
Often, a dentist will simply smell the breath of a person with suspected halitosis and rate the odor on a six-point intensity scale. The dentist may scrape the back of the tongue and smell the scrapings as this area can often be a source of the aroma.
There are a variety of sophisticated detectors that can rate odor more precisely.
They include the following:
The dentist will then be able to identify the likely cause of the bad breath.
Last medically reviewed on January 10, 2018
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