Bad breath (halitosis) means that you have an unpleasant smell on your breath that other people notice when you speak or breathe out. Bad breath odors vary, depending on the source or the underlying cause. Some people worry too much about their breath even though they have little or no mouth odor, while others have bad breath and don't know it. Because it's difficult to assess how your own breath smells, ask a close friend or relative to confirm your bad-breath questions.

Do you suffer from bad breath?

You become used to your own smell and do not tend to notice your own bad breath. You may have to ask your family member or a friend and tell you if you have bad breath. Gum disease is a common cause of bad breath. Lick the inside of your wrist. Wait a few seconds for the saliva to dry. Then smell the licked part of the wrist. If you detect an unpleasant smell, you are likely to have bad breath.

Types of bad breath?

Early Morning breath - Most people have some degree of bad breath after a night's sleep. This is normal and occurs because the mouth tends to get dry and stagnate overnight. This usually clears when the flow of saliva increases soon after starting to eat breakfast.

Dry mouth (xerostomia) - Bad breath associated with a dry mouth is caused by a reduction in the cleansing mechanism of the mouth as a result of reduced flow of saliva. There are many causes of a dry mouth. The most common cause is after a night's sleep. Dry mouth may also occur:

  • Due to a lack of fluid in the body (dehydration)   
  • As a side-effect of some medicines (for example, tricyclic antidepressants).   
  • As a symptom of some diseases (such as Sjögren's syndrome)
  • Following radiotherapy to the head and neck regions
  • Foods, drinks and medicines

Chemicals in foods can get into the bloodstream, and then be breathed out from the lungs. Most people are familiar with the smell of garlic, spicy foods and alcoholic drinks on the breath of people who have recently eaten or drunk these. Various other foods and medicines can cause a smell on the breath. This type of bad breath is temporary and easily cured by not eating the food.

Tobacco products - Most non-smokers can tell if a person is a smoker by their breath which "smells like an ashtray". Stopping smoking is the only cure for this type of bad breath. Smoking also increases the risk of developing gum disease - another cause of bad breath. Smoking causes its own unpleasant mouth odor. Smokers and oral tobacco users are also more likely to have gum disease, another source of bad breath.

Infections in your mouth- Bad breath can be caused by surgical wounds after oral surgery, such as tooth removal, or as a result of tooth decay, gum disease or mouth sores.

Other mouth, nose and throat conditions

Bad breath can occasionally stem from small stones that form in the tonsils and are covered with bacteria that produce odor. Infections or chronic inflammation in the nose, sinuses or throat, which can contribute to postnasal drip, also can cause bad breath.

Other causes

Diseases, such as some cancers, and conditions such as metabolic disorders, can cause a distinctive breath odor as a result of chemicals they produce. Chronic reflux of stomach acids (gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD) can be associated with bad breath.

Bad breath in young children can be caused by a foreign body, such as a piece of food, lodged in a nostril.


To reduce bad breath, help avoid cavities and lower your risk of gum disease, consistently practice good oral hygiene. Dental measures may include:  

Mouth rinses and toothpastes. If your bad breath is due to a buildup of bacteria (plaque) on your teeth,  mouth rinse can be used which the bacteria. a toothpaste that contains an antibacterial agent to kill the bacteria that cause plaque buildup.

Treatment of dental disease.  Gum disease can cause gums to pull away from your teeth, leaving deep pockets that fill with odor-causing bacteria. Deep subgingival cleaning, sub gingival curettage, flap surgeries removes these bacteria which further enhances the longevity of the tooth. Overhanging faulty tooth restoration is a breeding ground for bacteria, so redo of these kind of restoration is always preferred.