Millions of people, knowingly or unknowingly, suffer from bad breath aka halitosis each year, making it the third most common reason for seeking dental care. With the exception of serious medical concerns, halitosis is usually manageable. In other words, halitosis is not a disease, but only an oral discomfort. Generally speaking, it is quite simple to tell if you have a bad breath. A few of the most obvious signs of bad breath are an unpleasant smell coming from the mouth, a coating on the tongue, and dry mouth.

Causes of Bad Breath (Halitosis)

  • Poor oral hygiene
  • Dental problems
  • Oral infections
  • Smoking
  • Medications
  • Medical conditions such as chronic liver failure, diabetes mellitus and carcinoma

Classification of Halitosis

The three major classifications of bad breath are:

  • Genuine halitosis
  • Physiologic halitosis
  • Pathologic halitosis
  • Pseudo- halitosis
  • Halitophobia

Making an assessment of the type of halitosis is a profoundly significant step as the treatment options for each classification vary.


Genuine halitosis

There is an obvious presence of oral malodor and contains an intensity that is not socially acceptable. Bad breath in this case can be easily detectable just by smelling the person’s breath or by using a testing apparatus to detect the compound that are associated with bad breath. Genuine halitosis is further subdivided into two categories: physiologic and pathologic halitosis.

Physiologic halitosis is identified by oral malodor, which is attributed to the decomposition process occurring in the oral activity. On the other hand, pathologic halitosis is a condition wherein bad breath is the end result of a diseased state.


In this case, bad breath is not perceived by others, but the patients feel they are suffering from it.


Halitophobia refers to a situation whereby the patient continues to carry the perception of malodor despite receiving the treatment of genuine halitosis and even after counselling in cases of pseudo-halitosis. Halitophobia is a psychological condition where patients continue to wrongly interpret their oral breath. This particular obsession with bad breath can restrict their behaviours, leading to avoidance of social interactions on a daily basis in an effort to cover up a problem that does not even exist.

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Treatments of Halitosis

  • Maintaining proper oral hygiene
  • It is imperative to brush at least twice, before breakfast and after dinner, every day. Besides, food and bacteria trapped between teeth should be removed with the help of floss. Be sure of keeping the tongue clean as bacteria left on the tongue can contribute to bad breath.
  • Cleaning dentures
  • If you are wearing dentures, ensure that you keep your dentures clean. Remember to clean the dentures using soap and lukewarm water or a denture-cleaning tablet.
  • Stimulate saliva production
  • Our saliva contains powerful antibacterial effects that help to keep our mouths clean. Therefore, it is a good idea to chew sugarless mints to stimulate saliva production.
  • Follow a healthy lifestyle
  • To begin with, if you are a smoker, then try to give up smoking. Cut down on sugary foods and drinks as it increases the amount of bacteria in the mouth. Try to eat a healthy diet and avoid eating spicy foods. Reduce alcohol consumption, cut down on your coffee intake, and most importantly, drink plenty of water.

Frequently Asked Questions: Bad Breath Control

Q1. How will my dentist diagnose halitosis?

When you visit your dentist, s/he will begin with asking you questions about your daily habits such as your eating and drinking habits. Also, a dentist may ask you about any medications that you take. Then, your dentist may examine your mouth for signs of decay, infections or gum diseases that may be causing halitosis. You may be referred to a physician for further evaluation, if needed.

Q2. When is the right time to get a treatment for my halitosis?

Even after employing several self-care techniques, if your bad breath does not improve, it is time to visit a dentist for pursuing professional treatment.