Last reviewed by Dr. Raj MD on January 12th, 2022.

What is Halitosis?

This is the medical terminology for bad breath. This is not your tolerable or mild form of bad breath but the type of bad breath that can be unpleasant since it has been there for a prolonged time. It is an order that is present when you exhale. It can even refer to unpleasant odors that come from your nasal passages. Halitosis is not a serious medical condition but it can lead to having problems with interacting with other people. It is a chronic condition that many times people do not realize they have. It is not the same thing as having morning breath. At one time or another nearly one fourth of all adults suffer from halitosis. According to dentists, this is the third most popular reason for a person to visit their dentist.

Halitosis Symptoms

When a person has halitosis the symptoms are not hard to notice but you should still pay attention to the way your breath smells. No matter how much you floss and brush properly you cannot get rid of the odor. Some of the symptoms a person may have if they have halitosis can include:

  • Having a yellow/white deposit that is formed on your tongue. This will allow mucous and bacteria build up and multiply. If it becomes serious not even removing any stray food from your mouth completely will help to lessen your bad breath. The reason is that bacteria in your saliva and other areas of your oral cavity are worse than on your tongue.
  • Having the presence of white nodules on your tonsils that ten to sprout up without you knowing it. You can also swallow these nodules and not know it.
  • Having taste buds that turn bitter and metallic which can be from anything from sinus problems to dental work.
  • Having a dry mouth can let bacteria concentrate on your saliva to replicate letting the smell build up. It may even smell fouler from far away.

Halitosis Causes

There are many different causes for having a case of halitosis, which can include:


When food particles breakdown in and around your teeth it can lead to increase bacteria and cause a bad odor. This includes eating certain foods like garlic, onions, and other spices and vegetables that can cause bad breath. After eating any of these foods they digest and then enter your bloodstream. Once in your bloodstream they are carried to your lungs which in time will affect your breath.

Tobacco products

Smoking on its own will cause a person to have an unpleasant mouth odor but people who smoke and use tobacco products are more likely to develop gum disease which is another source of having bad breath.

Dental hygiene that is poor

Food particles will remain in your mouth if you do not floss and brush every day and cause halitosis. Plaque, which is a sticky colorless film of bacteria, will form on your teeth. If it is not brushed away it can irritate your gums causing gingivitis. Eventually you could have plaque-filled pockets between your gums and teeth called periodontitis. The surface of your tongue, which is uneven, can also trap bacteria that can cause odors. If a person wears dentures and they do not fit properly or are not cleaned regularly they can also harbor food particles and bacteria that can cause odors.

Dry mouth

Saliva helps to clean your mouth by removing food particles that could cause bad odor. If you have dry mouth, also known as xerostomia, can contribute to halitosis because your saliva production is decreased.

Infections in your mouth

This includes any surgical wounds after having oral surgery like having a tooth removed. It can also be because of gum disease, mouth sores, or tooth decay.

Other throat, mouth, and nose conditions

Occasionally halitosis can happen because of small stones that form in your tonsils and are covered with bacteria which can produce odorous chemicals. Chronic inflammation or infections in your throat, nose, or sinuses that contribute to postnasal drip can also cause halitosis.


Some of the medications that can cause halitosis do it indirectly by contributing to your dry mouth. There are other medications that can break down in your body and releases chemicals that can be carried on your breath.

Other causes include:

  • Large doses of caffeine as they are acidic in nature
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Kidney/liver disease
  • Anemia
  • Consumption of alcohol
  • Not drinking enough water

Halitosis Treatment

There are many different ways that you can help treat halitosis, which are:

  • Make sure that you are brushing when you get up in the morning and before you go to bed.
  • Use floss and mouthwash
  • Everyday gargle with saltwater to stop the bacteria’s ability to grow. Make sure that you do not substitute mouthwash instead of salt water. You need to do both.
  • Chew sugar-free gum to help promote the flow of saliva.
  • Treating any dental diseases you might have, especially gum disease. When you have gum disease your gums pull away from your teeth and leave deep pockets where odor-causing bacteria can accumulate.

If you still have halitosis after trying these treatments you should see your dentist or physician to see if there is an underlying cause for you to have halitosis.


  • Most everyone remembers to brush their teeth but you should also make sure that you are brushing your tongue because your tongue harbors bacteria. If your tongue is coated from an overgrowth of bacteria from having a dry mouth or from smoking you may need to use a tongue scraper.
  • You should also make sure that you are keeping your dental appliances or dentures clean.
  • Avoid any beverages and foods that can cause halitosis.
  • Get a new toothbrush every three to four months or sooner if it becomes frayed. You should use a toothbrush with soft bristles.
  • Make sure that you are scheduling regular dental checkups.
  • Drink plenty of water to help prevent dry mouth and dehydration.
  • Quit smoking
  • Make a tea with cloves or fresh parsley. Make sure that you strain it before you drink it.
  • Gargle with warm water and lemon juice.

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