Bad breath (halitosis) can cause embarrassment, create social and psychological barriers, and even affect personal relationships.


  • The majority of bad breath problems begin in the mouth.
  • Bad breath that originates in the mouth can be traced to a sulfur compound produced by bacteria. Dead and dying bacterial cells release this sulfur compound which gives the breath an unpleasant odor.
  • Bacterial biofilm (plaque) and food debris accumulate on the back of the tongue. The tongue’s surface is extremely rough and bacteria can accumulate easily in the cracks and crevices, making it a frequent source for bad breath.
  • The teeth attract bacterial biofilm (plaque) and if not cleaned regularly and thoroughly, this can result in bad breath.
  • People with periodontitis (gum disease) often experience bad breath due to the bacteria accumulating in areas that are not cleaned easily, such as the deep pockets around teeth.

Fortunately, treatment is very effective for people who have bad breath that originates in the mouth.

Other reasons for bad breath (other than the mouth) include:

  • Infections, especially in the sinuses or lungs.
  • Diabetes mellitus (may result in an acetone odor of the breath).
  • Kidney failure (can produce a fishy odor).
  • Malfunction of the liver.
  • Disorders of metabolism (foul, fishy odor that comes and goes and may be difficult to diagnose).
  • Fasting (when the body is not provided with fuel in the form of food, fat and protein will begin to be broken down; the result is bad odor from the waste products of this metabolism).
  • Medications, mouth breathing, poor lip closure or any other factor that may cause dry mouth can also contribute to bad breath.

If your bad breath continues once potential oral health problems have been treated, see your doctor to discuss other possible causes of mouth odor such as those listed above.

Dental Treatment:

  • Treatment begins with a complete oral examination and health history.
  • Periodontal disease and /or cavities will be treated and repaired.
  • Oral infections will be eliminated; this may require the extraction of abscessed or partially erupted teeth.
  • Good oral hygiene will be stressed, including cleaning the teeth and tongue at least twice a day.
  • If mouth odor is still a concern, after all medical and dental issues have been addressed your dental hygienist may recommend oral hygiene products, such as mouth rinses and/or toothpastes specifically designed to help treat bad breath.

Bad breath sufferers are encouraged to seek treatment because of the high success rate in managing the problem.