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Bad breath (halitosis)

Bad breath, or halitosis, is common and affects around 1 in 4 people.

Causes of bad breath

Bad breath can be caused by:

  • Poor oral hygiene
  • Eating smelly food
  • Some health conditions
  • Smoking
  • Some medications.

How does what you eat affect breath?

The digestion process begins in the mouth - and food with strong smells, such as garlic, can linger on the breath.

Why do poor habits cause bad breath?

Twice daily tooth brushing and other mouth care tips your dentist may recommend, such as flossing, should remove food particles from the mouth. Any bits left behind can help feed bacteria which in turn cause bad breath.

People with dentures or braces may need to pay special attention to cleaning routines.

Poor oral hygiene can also affect the gums, giving bacteria new places to grow.

Bad breath may be a sign of gum disease where plaque builds up on the teeth allowing bacteria to irritate the gums. Other problems include:

  • Poorly fitting dental appliances
  • Yeast infections in the mouth
  • Dental cavities that need fillings.

What health problems are associated with bad breath?

Health conditions linked to bad breath include:

What can I do to prevent bad breath?

Bad breath cannot always be prevented, but steps to help avoid it include:

  • Good oral hygiene
  • Seeing your dentist as often as they advise to check for problems and get them treated
  • Not smoking
  • Drinking plenty of water
  • Chewing sugar-free gum to help stimulate saliva production
  • Avoiding smelly foods - try keeping track of things you've eaten that may have caused bad breath
  • If bad breath began after taking a new medication, talk to your doctor about alternatives without that side-effect.

Who treats bad breath?

Your dentist is the first place to get help for bad breath. They may find things in your mouth that need treatment - or may recommend extra tooth and gum care measures, including special mouthwash.

If they suspect other causes, they may suggest you see your GP.

What products can I use to eliminate bad breath?

Mouthwashes and other over-the-counter products for bad breath are available.

However, these may just mask the smell rather than tackling the cause directly.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on October 27, 2016

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