Bad Breath (Halitosis) - Symptoms

What is halitosis?

Bad breath (halitosis) means that you have an unpleasant smell on your breath that other people notice when you speak or breathe out.

How common is halitosis?

The exact number of people with bad breath is not known, but it is common. In some countries, studies have found as many as half of the population have problems with halitosis. In others the frequency is much less.

Types of halitosis

Halitosis can be:

Normal

Bad breath can be normal (physiological) in certain circumstances. This includes:

  • In the morning when you first wake up.
  • If you smoke.
  • After eating certain foods - for example, garlic, onions, spices, cabbage, sprouts, etc.
  • After drinking a lot of alcohol.
  • Fasting, being on a crash diet or a low-carbohydrate diet.

Pathological

This means there is a problem causing it. This is usually a problem in the mouth, but it can be coming from other sources, or caused by a specific illness or condition.

Psychological

In this case, the person doesn't actually have bad breath. Nobody else can smell it but the person becomes very anxious about it. An extreme version of this is called halitophobia, the fear of bad breath. Some people think they have bad breath when they do not, and nobody else can smell it. This can result in odd behaviour to try to minimise what they think of as their bad breath. For example, they may cover their mouth when talking, avoid or keep a distance from other people, or avoid social occasions. People with halitophobia often become fixated with teeth cleaning and tongue cleaning and frequently use chewing gums, mints, mouthwashes and sprays in the hope of reducing their distress. Treatment from a psychologist may help.

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Author:
Dr Mary Harding
Peer Reviewer:
Dr Helen Huins
Document ID:
4892 (v43)
Last Checked:
06 July 2017
Next Review:
05 July 2020

Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. Patient Platform Limited has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details see our conditions.