Breath odor is the scent of the air you breathe out of your mouth. Unpleasant breath odor is commonly called bad breath.
Bad breath; Halitosis; Malodor
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:
Bad breath may be caused by:
Some diseases that may cause breath odor are:
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.
Murr AH. Approach to the patient with nose, sinus, and ear disorders. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 25th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 426.
Quirynen M, Laleman I, Dadamio J, De Geest S, Vandekerckhove B, Teughels W. Breath malodor. In: Newman MG, Takei HH, Klokkevold PR, Carranza FA, eds. Carranza's Clinical Periodontology. 12th ed. St Louis, MO: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 52.
Swartz MH, The oral cavity and pharynx. In: Swartz MH, ed. Textbook of Physical Diagnosis. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2014:chap 9.
Review Date: 2/5/2018
Reviewed By: Ilona Fotek, DMD, MS, Dental Healing Arts, Jupiter, FL. 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.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.