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Bad Breath (Halitosis)

Clinical Overview

Reviewed by: Dr. Kristen Dority

Bad breath can be caused by a variety of factors including: Smoking, poor dental hygiene, alcoholism, throat infection, dental infection, sinusitis, lung infection, gum disease, impacted tooth or a foreign body in the nose. The problem can be combated with good oral hygiene including regular brushing and flossing. Bad breath or halitosis may affect up to a quarter of all adults on a regular basis. The embarrassing condition can be present without people being aware of it. Dietary factors can influence the odor of the breath, particularly aromatics like onions and garlic. Not only do these foods take on an objectionable smell immediately after they are ingested, they continue to produce an odor while they are metabolized, both as they absorbed into the bloodstream and also as they are expelled by the lungs. While mouth rinses can mask these smells temporarily, the odors only leave with body when the food has completely metabolized. A number of other mouth, throat, and lung problems can also contribute to halitosis. Tooth decay, dry mouth, gum disease, poor oral hygiene, postnasal drip, throat or tonsil infection, bronchitis, and pneumonia are all potential precursors for halitosis.

Last updated: May-03-07

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