Bad breath, sometimes called halitosis, is an unpleasant odor of the breath.
Bad breath is likely to be experienced by most adults at least occasionally. Bad breath, either real or imagined, can have a significant impact on a person's social and professional life.
Bad breath can be caused by a number of problems. Oral diseases, fermentation of food particles in the mouth, sinus infections, and unclean dentures can all contribute to mouth odor. Many non-oral diseases, such as lung infections, kidney failure, or severe liver disease, can also cause bad breath, though rarely. Many people think that bad breath can originate in the stomach or intestines; this is extremely rare. The esophagus is usually collapsed and closed, and, although a belch may carry odor up from the stomach, the chance of bad breath being caused from air continually escaping from the stomach is remote. Cigarette smoke can cause bad breath, not only in the cigarette smoker, but also in one who is constantly exposed to secondhand smoke.
The easiest way to determine if one has bad breath is to ask someone who is trustworthy and discrete. This is usually not too difficult. Another, more private, method of determining if one has bad breath is to lick one's wrist, wait until it dries, then smell the area. Scraping the rear area of the tongue with a plastic spoon, then smelling the spoon, is another method one can use to assess bad breath.
Themost effective treatment of bad breath is to treat the cause. Poor oral hygiene can be improved by regular brushing and flossing, as well as regular dental checkups. Gentle brushing of the tongue should be part of daily oral hygiene. In addition to good oral hygiene, the judicious use ofmouthwash is helpful. Mouthdryness, experienced at night or during fasting, or due to certain medications and medical conditions, can contribute to bad breath. Dryness can be avoided by drinking adequate amounts of water. Chewing gum may be beneficial.
As mentioned, some medications, such as some high blood pressure medications, can cause dry mouth. If this problem is significant, a medication change, under the supervision of one's health care provider, may improve the dry-mouth condition. Oral or sinus infections, once diagnosed, can be treated medically, usually with antibiotics. Lung infections and kidney or liver problems will, of course, need medical treatment.
Depending on the cause, a multitude of alternative therapeutic remedies can be used. For example, sinusitis can be treated with steam inhalation of essential oils and/or herbs.
Most bad breath can be treated successfully with good oral hygiene and/or medical care. Occasionally, for patients who feel that these therapies are unsuccessful, some delusional or obsessive behavior pattern might pertain, and mental health counseling may be appropriate.