Halitosis (Bad Breath)

Causes of Bad Breath

If previously normal breath turns into halitosis (bad breath), causes may include:

  • Food or beverages consumed (such as cabbage, garlic, raw onions, or coffee)
  • Vitamin supplements (especially in large doses)
  • Poor dental hygiene
  • Dentures
  • Cavities
  • Tobacco smoking
  • Throat infection
  • Sinusitis
  • Lung infection
  • Gum disease (gingivitis, gingivostomatitis)
  • Abscessed tooth
  • Drugs – Paraldehyde, Triamterene, Insulin injection

There is also a possibility of bowel obstruction if a person is severely constipated. In such a case it may cause breath to smell like feces.

Diseases Associated With Breath Odor

Acute necrotizing ulcerative gingivitis
Acute necrotizing ulcerative mucositis
Acute renal failure
Bowel obstruction (can cause breath to smell like feces)
Chronic renal failure (can cause breath to smell like ammonia)
Esophageal cancer
Gastric carcinoma
Lung abscess
Ozena, or atrophic rhinitis
Periodontal disease


  • Proper dental hygiene (especially flossing) is required. Only mouthwashes are not effective in treating the underlying problem.
  • Fresh parsley or a strong mint are often effective ways to fight temporary bad breath.
  • Avoid smoking.
  • Antibiotics may be required if the bad breath is due to an underlying tooth infection.

Dental Care and Further Prevention

Oral hygiene is the best means of prevention of cavities (dental caries), gingivitis, periodontitis, and other dental disorders. It also helps to prevent bad breath. Oral hygiene is necessary for all persons to maintain the health of their teeth and mouth. Healthy teeth have less cavities. They are clean and have minimal or no plaque deposits. Healthy gums are pink and firm.

Oral hygiene consists of both personal and professional care. Dental X-rays may be performed as part of routine professional examinations.

Personal Care

Careful brushing and flossing help to prevent build-up of plaque and calculus (tartar).

The teeth should be brushed at least twice daily and flossed at least once per day. For some people, brushing and flossing may be recommended after every meal and at bedtime. Consult the dentist or dental hygienist if instruction or demonstration of proper brushing and flossing techniques is needed.

Special appliances or tools may be used to supplement (but not to replace) tooth brushing and flossing. These include special toothpicks, toothbrushes, water irrigation, or other devices. Initially electric toothbrushes were only recommended for persons who have problems with strength or dexterity of their hands, but many dentists are now recommending them to many other patients in order to improve their dental home care.

Fluoride-containing, or anti-plaque (tartar control) toothpastes or mouth rinses may be used.

Dentures, retainers, and other appliances must be kept extremely clean. This includes regular brushing and may include soaking them in a cleansing solution.

Professional Care

Regular tooth cleaning by the dentist or dental hygienist is important to remove plaque that may develop even with careful brushing and flossing, especially in areas that are difficult for him to reach on his own at home. Professional cleaning includes scaling and polishing. This involves the use of various instruments or devices to loosen and remove deposits from the teeth.

It is recommended to have the teeth professionally cleaned every 6 months. More frequent cleaning and examination may be necessary during the treatment of many of the dental/oral disorders. Routine examination of the teeth is recommended at least every year. This may include yearly select dental X-rays.

If there is no improvement after taking necessary dental precautions, he may need to see a dentist for thorough oral examination. If his dental examination turns out to be normal, then an abdominal x-ray may be required to rule out bowel obstruction.

Medical Advice (Q&As) on “Halitosis (Bad Breath)

  1. David

    I am having bad breath and tonsil stones from a pouch in the roof of my mouth (not from the tonsil craters at all because it’s always clean and neat). Other symptoms are white/ clear thick salty phlegm and stuffy nose. I always smell the bad breath too whenever I make a growling sound (which is from the roof of my mouth) and I always dip my finger into it only to bring out tonsil stones from the pouch. I think it’s the hole that passes phlegm or water to the throat when you pour water or flush your nose. e.g flushing your nose with saline water. Now, I have cleaned it but I can still smell a foul odor coming from the roof of the mouth when I make that growling sound. What is the cause of the smell even when it’s cleaned because it’s no more there. Others can smell it too when I talk. Any drug/home remedies for it? Please help me.

    1. Buddy M.D. Post author

      Have you got this examined by an ENT? It’s important to know what that pouch is and from where it has originated.

  2. sachin

    Sir, I am having bad breath because of vitamin supplements. Please suggest me the solution to overcome this situation.

    1. Buddy M.D. Post author

      This is normal. You may chew something good smelling, like cardamom after taking the tablets. This would over mask the previous smell.

    1. Buddy M.D. Post author

      Firstly, assure that there is no nidus of infection in your oral cavity, that is, no decay tooth, gum problem etc. For this, you may visit a dentist.

      Let your daily routine include brushing your teeth twice, once after you get up in the morning, and once before bedtime.

      Flossing once in 3 to 4 days is recommended.


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