How do I get rid of bad breath (Halitosis)

Bad breath, or halitosis, may be caused by inadequate oral hygiene, but this is not always the case. It can also be caused by a variety of medical conditions, such as parched mouth, heartburn, or even a disease in another part of the body. Halitosis treatment depends on the underlying cause.

How do we define Halitosis?

The medical term for bad breath is halitosis. Everyone occasionally has bad breath, particularly after consuming garlic, onions, or other strong foods. However, persistent bad odour (chronic halitosis) may indicate an oral health issue or a condition affecting another part of the body.

Halitosis is a symptom of numerous diseases and disorders. In other terms, it is similar to a warning from your body. The first step in treating halitosis is identifying the underlying cause.

What are the symptoms of bad breath?

Halitosis is characterized primarily by persistent bad odour. The odour may be intense enough to be detected by others.

What are the common causes of bad breath?

The leading cause of bad breath is inadequate oral hygiene. Without proper oral hygiene, such as brushing, flossing, and regular dental cleanings, harmful microorganisms will invade and proliferate in your mouth. This can result in oral health issues such as bad breath, cavities, and periodontal disease

Other health problems associated with bad breath:

However, inadequate oral hygiene is not the only cause of halitosis. Several additional conditions can cause bad odour, including:

Dry mouth: Since saliva helps to clean the mouth, insufficient saliva production can result in bad breath. Additionally, to causing dry mouth, smoking increases the risk of periodontal disease. Moreover, some medications can induce dry mouth.

Head and neck cancers: Oral or oropharyngeal cancer symptoms include non-healing ulcers, mouth pain, difficulty swallowing, a mass in the neck, and unexplained weight loss.

Gastroesophageal reflux disease(GERD): This is a digestive disorder in which gastric acid or fluid leaks back into the oesophagus, the tube that transports food from the mouth to the stomach.

Stones in Tonsils: When food becomes lodged in the tonsils (located at the back of the oesophagus), it can harden into calcium deposits known as tonsil stones or tonsilloliths.

Oral inflammations: Gingivitis is an inflammation of the gums, which can result in redness, edoema, and bleeding. Plaque, a viscous film that forms on your teeth and can be removed by brushing and flossing, is the cause. Gingivitis, if left untreated, can progress to periodontitis, which damages gum tissue and can result in tooth and bone loss around the teeth. Trench mouth is an advanced form of gum disease that can involve intense discomfort, bleeding, fever and fatigue. (It is nicknamed “trenches mouth” because it was a common illness among World War I soldiers in the trenches.)

Infections: People with infections of the sinuses, throat, or lungs, such as pneumonia, cough up foul-smelling liquid.

Diabetes: People with diabetes are at a higher risk for periodontal disease, and gum disease can make it more difficult to manage diabetes by increasing blood sugar levels.

Liver disease or kidney disease: When the liver and kidneys are healthy, they remove impurities from the body. But in persons with liver or kidney disease, these toxic substances aren’t being cleared out. This can lead to bad breath.

What if you have bad breath all the time?

If you have persistent bad breath, you may have periodontal disease. However, this is not always the case. Additionally, halitosis can be a symptom of the conditions enumerated in the preceding section

If you have persistent poor breath, schedule an appointment with your dentist. If inadequate oral hygiene is the cause of bad breath, a dental cleaning or periodontal (gum) procedure should be effective. If your teeth and gums are healthy, halitosis may be caused by a problem in another part of your body

How does food affects your breath?

Essentially, all food consumed begins to be broken down in the pharynx. Additionally, foods are assimilated into the bloodstream and transported to the lungs, influencing the exhaled air. If you consume foods with intense odours (such as garlic or onions), brushing, flossing, and even mouthwash will only temporarily mask the odour. The odour will not be completely eliminated until the food has passed through your system. Other typical substances that can contribute to bad breath include:

  1. Cheese
  2. Orange juice/soda
  3. Alcohol
  4. Certain spices

Similarly, those who adhere to a low-frequency eating pattern may get halitosis. The breakdown of adipose tissue in the human body results in the release of certain chemical compounds, which can contribute to the generation of an undesirable odour in exhaled breath.

How do I know that I have Bad breath?

If you have a bad flavour in your mouth, you likely have a noticeable mouth odour. Consult with your dentist for the definitive answer.

How is bad breath treated?

Halitosis treatment depends on the main cause of the issue. For instance, if bad breath is caused by poor oral hygiene, a dental cleaning and enhanced oral hygiene at home are likely to be effective.

However, if halitosis is a symptom of a condition elsewhere in the body, your primary care physician can assist you with the correct diagnosis and treatment.

Your dentist may occasionally recommend special mouth rinses to combat specific oral bacteria.

How do I prevent bad breath?

Proper oral hygiene is the best method to maintain a pleasant breath odour. Here are some general recommendations:

  1. Brush twice daily for a minimum of two minutes per session, and floss once daily. Don’t forget to clean your tongue with your toothbrush or a tongue scraper, which can be purchased in the oral health aisle.
  2. Use an antibacterial mouthwash without alcohol.
  3. Regular dental visits and scaling are crucial. For some, this may occur once every six months. Others, however, may require more frequent dental visits to maintain good oral health.
  4. Consume a great deal of water to prevent parched mouth.
  5. Increase saliva production by chewing sugar-free gum, sucking on sugar-free confectionery, or consuming healthy foods that require extensive chewing. Your dentist may recommend or prescribe products that help your body produce saliva or produce artificial saliva.
  6. Alcohol, caffeine, and tobacco can dry out your mouth, so avoid them.


Dentist recommended brushing technique one should follow:

Here are some tips and tricks for effective tooth brushing:

  1. Use a toothbrush with flexible bristles. Ensure that its size and shape permit access to all areas of your mouth.
  2. Replace your toothbrush every three to four months, or more frequently if it appears to be worn.
  3. Use short strokes, about the breadth of a tooth, while holding your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to your gums. Ensure that you reach the exterior, interior, and crown of each tooth.
  4. Do not apply excessive force to your brush. Aggressive brushing or the use of a brush with stiff bristles may cause gingival recession.

When should I visit my dentist?

Schedule an appointment with your dentist if you practice good hygiene but still have bad breath. Some individuals may require more frequent cleanings because they accumulate plaque at a quicker rate than others. You can also make an appointment with a periodontist (a specialist in gum disease) to determine if gum disease is the cause of bad breath.

If your dentist finds no oral health issues, such as cavities or periodontal disease, then your primary care physician can determine if halitosis is caused by another condition.

Take home notes:

  1. Halitosis is a prevalent condition that can result in humiliation or low self-esteem. But bad odor is nothing to be embarrassed about.
  2. It is frequently your body’s method of alerting you that something is wrong.
  3. The good news is that halitosis can typically be eliminated by treating the underlying health issue. Your dentist and primary care physician can collaborate to determine what is most beneficial for you.

Written By : Dr. Divya Tandon , PhD 

 Medically reviewed by Dr. kalpanaa