Halitosis otherwise known as "bad breath" may be described as an unpleasant odour coming from the breath that is exhaled through the mouth or nose.

Bad breath is a social taboo and as a result sometimes psychological or social problems can develop for example social anxiety, depression, reluctance to speak and being withdrawn.


Bad Breath

Most of the time the unpleasant odor may be caused by conditions inside the mouth example:

  • Odors released by bacteria present below the gum line and on the back of the tongue.

  • Tooth decay

  • Gum disease

  • Sores inside the mouth

About 10% of the time halitosis may be caused by conditions outside of the mouth for example.

  • Disorders in the nasal cavity

  • Sinuses

  • Throat

  • Lungs

  • Esophagus

  • Stomach

Other times halitosis may be a symptom of a serious underlying medical condition for example:

  • Liver failure

  • Kidney disease or failure

  • Diabetes

  • Lung infection

Halitosis can be categorized by the character of the odour into three groups.

1. Sulfurous or fecal

Commonly caused by volatile sulfur compounds most notably methyl mercapton,hydrogen sulfide,and dimethyl sulfide.

2. Fruity or Sweet

Caused by acetone present in diabetes

3. Urine like or Ammoniacal

Caused by ammonia,dimethyl amine and trimethyl amine that is present in Trimethyl aminuria and uremia.

Causes of intra oral halitosis/malodour

  • Open cavities inside the mouth that causes food impaction and stagnation(food debris lodged inside the cavity for days,weeks or even longer)

  • Recent dental extraction sockets filled with blood clot which provide a habitat for bacterial growth.

  • Interdental food packing or food getting pushed between the teeth and debris being trapped resulting in bacterial growth and release of toxins by bacteria.

  • Poor cleaning of acrylic dentures, failure to remove the dentures at nights and causing the growth of yeast and bacterial retention occupied by a typical smell.

  • Oal infections

  • Oral ulcerations or sores

  • Fasting

  • Stress/Anxiety

  • Menstrual cycle causing an increase in volatile sulfur compounds

  • Alcohol consumption

  • Eating volatile food items for example onion, garlic,duriam, cabbage, cauliflower, radddish which leave malodourous residues int the mouth subjected to bacteria and volatile sulfur compounds being released.

  • Medication which causes xerostomia dry mouth) causing increased microbial growth in the mouth.

  • Gingivitis

  • Periodontitis

  • Oral cancers

In The Nose

Air exiting the nostrils has a pungent odor that is different from the odor of the mouth. Commonly caused by sinus infections or foreign bodies lodged in the nose.

In The Tonsils

Putrefaction from the tonsils is considered a minor cause of bad breath. Small bits of calcified matter in the tonsillarcrypts called tonsilloliths (tonsil stones) that smell extremely foul when released causing halitosis.