Bad breath (halitosis): Causes, diagnosis, and treatment

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.

Fast facts on bad breath

Here are some key points about bad breath. More detail and supporting information is in the main article.

Bad breath is estimated to affect 1 in 4 people globally.

The most common cause of halitosis is bad oral hygiene.

If particles of food are left in the mouth, their breakdown by bacteria produces sulfur compounds.

Keeping the mouth hydrated can reduce mouth odor.

The best treatment for bad breath is regular brushing, flossing, and hydration.

What is halitosis?

a woman with bad breath
Although bad breath is associated with certain diseases, oral hygiene is the most common cause.

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.

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Treatment

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.

Causes

Potential causes of bad breath include:

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