Published on June 5, 2024 at 8:00 / Updated on June 21, 2024 at 8:00

Halitosis is a persistent, unpleasant odour to the breath. It's a common condition that most often occurs in adults, though children can also be affected.

Causes and triggers

Most cases of bad breath are caused by a condition of the mouth. Here are the most common causes:

  • Tobacco use
  • Certain foods (e.g., onions, garlic, coffee, alcohol)
  • Bacteria on the tongue
  • Dental problems (e.g., cavities, gingivitis, periodontitis, abscesses)
  • Poor oral hygiene
  • Lack of saliva

In rare cases, bad breath can be caused by disorders outside the mouth, such as a sinus or lung infection, a foreign object in the nose, or cancer of the mouth or nose. Despite what people often think, bad breath rarely stems from the stomach or digestive system.

Pseudo-halitosis is when a person is convinced that their breath smells bad when it actually does not.


The causes of bad breath are generally easy to treat. Once the cause has been identified, a health care professional will usually be able to treat it.

Most cases of bad breath can also be resolved with a few simple measures:

  • Brushing your teeth and tongue daily
  • Flossing
  • Quitting smoking
  • Reducing your coffee and alcohol consumption
  • Receiving regular and proper dental care

When should I see a health care professional?

Consult a health care professional if you have bad breath and any of the following symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Pus-filled sputum or nasal discharge
  • Abnormal spots in your mouth

If you suffer from bad breath but do not have any of the symptoms above, a health care professional will be able to answer any questions you may have.

For more information:

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