Breath odor

Definition

Breath odor is the scent of the air you breathe out of your mouth. Unpleasant breath odor is commonly called bad breath.

Alternative Names

Bad breath; Halitosis; Malodor; Fetor oris; Fetor ex ore; Fetor ex oris; Breath malodor; Oral malodor

Considerations

Bad breath is usually related to poor dental hygiene. Not brushing and flossing regularly causes sulfur compounds to be released by bacteria in the mouth.

Some disorders will produce distinct breath odors. Some examples are:

Causes

Bad breath may be caused by:

Some diseases that may cause breath odor are:

Home Care

Use proper dental hygiene, especially flossing. Remember that mouthwashes are not effective in treating the underlying problem.

Fresh parsley or a strong mint is often an effective way to fight temporary bad breath. Avoid smoking.

Otherwise, follow your health care provider's instructions to treat any underlying cause of bad breath.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Contact your provider if:

What to Expect at Your Office Visit

Your provider will take a medical history and perform a physical exam.

You may be asked the following medical history questions:

The physical exam will include a thorough inspection of your mouth and nose. A throat culture may be taken if you have a sore throat or mouth sores.

In rare cases, tests that may be performed include:

Antibiotics may be prescribed for some conditions. For an object in the nose, your provider will use an instrument to remove it.

References

Murr AH. Approach to the patient with nose, sinus, and ear disorders. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 398.

Quirynen M, Laleman I, De Geest S, De Hous C, Dekeyser C, Teughels W. Breath malodor. In: Newman MG, Takei HH, Klokkevold PR, Carranza FA, eds. Newman and Carranza's Clinical Periodontology. 13th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 49.


Review Date: 1/24/2022
Reviewed By: Michael Kapner, DDS, General Dentistry, Norwalk Medical Center, Norwalk CT. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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