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Bad breath: all about halitosis causes symptoms and treatment

Definition of halitosis

The halitosis or bad breath is having a breath whose smell is unpleasant. Most often, it is the bacteriaon the tongue or teeth that produce these odors. Although halitosis is a minor health problem, it can be a source of stress and a social handicap.

The causes of bad breath

Most cases of bad breath come from the mouth itself and can be caused by:

  • Certain foods containing oils that emit a particular smell, for example garlic, onions or certain spices. These foods, once digested, are transformed into potentially odorous components that pass into the bloodstream, travel to the lungs where they are the source of the fragrant breath until they are eliminated from the body.
  • bad oral care : when the oral hygiene is insufficient, the particles of food persistent between teeth or between the gum and the teeth are colonized by bacteria emitting malodorous chemical compounds based on sulfur. The uneven microscopic surface of the tongue can also harbor food debris and odor-causing bacteria.
  • An oral infection : caries or periodontal disease (infection or abscess of the gums or periodontitis).
  • dry mouth (xerostomia or hyposialie). Saliva is a natural mouthwash. It contains antibacterial substances that eliminate the germs and particles that cause bad breath. At night, the production of saliva decreases, which is the cause of bad breath in the morning.
  • The drinking , the mouth breathing instead of through the nose and disorders of the salivary glands.
  • Tobacco products. The tobacco dries the mouth and smokers are also at higher risk of dental disease, which causes halitosis.
  • The hormones . During ovulation and pregnancy, high levels of hormones increase the production of plaque, which, colonized by bacteria, can cause nauseating breath.

Halitosis can sometimes be a symptom of a more serious health problem such as:

  • Of respiratory diseases . An infection of the sinuses or throat (tonsillitis) can cause an abundance of mucus that causes foul breath.
  • Some cancers or metabolic problems can cause characteristic bad breath.
  • Diabetes.
  • Gastro-oesophageal reflux.
  • Kidney failure or liver.
  • Certain medications , such as antihistamines or decongestants, as well as those used to treat high blood pressure, urinary disorders or psychiatric problems (antidepressants, antipsychotics) can contribute to bad breath by drying out the mouth.

Symptoms of halitosis

  • Have a breath whose smell  is uncomfortable.
  • Many people do not know that they have bad breath, since the cells responsible for smell become insensitive to the constant flow of bad odor.

People at risk for of halitosis

  • People who have   chronic dry mouth .
  • The  elderly  (who often have reduced saliva).

Risk factors

  • Poor oral hygiene
  • Smoking.

Prevent of bad breath or halitosis

Basic preventive measures


  • If brushing your teeth and tongue at least twice a day after meals. Change toothbrush every 3 or 4 months.
  • Use dental floss once a day to remove food stuck between the teeth, or an interdental brush for people whose teeth are farther apart.
  • Clean dental prostheses regularly.
  • Drink enough water to ensure hydration of the mouth. Suck candy or chew gum (ideally without sugar) in case of dry mouth.
  • Consume fiber (fruits and vegetables).
  • Reduce the consumption of alcohol or coffee.
  • Consult a dentist regularly, at least once a year for possible care and regular descaling .

Treatments for bad breath

When halitosis is caused by the development of bacteria in the dental plaque on the teeth:

  • Use a mouthwash  containing cetylpyridinium chloride or chlorhexidine, antiseptics that eliminate the presence of bacteria. Chlorhexidine-based mouthwashes may, however, cause temporary staining of the teeth and tongue. Some mouthwashes containing chlorine dioxide or zinc (Listerine) may also be effective  .
  • Brush your teeth with a toothpaste containing an  anti-bacterial agent .

Note that there is no point in disinfecting the mouth if food debris and dental plaque, medium of bacteria development are not regularly eliminated. It is therefore essential to remove dental plaque by regular brushing and tartar (calcified dental plaque) during regular descaling at the dentist. The  bacteria colonize the plaque if it is not eliminated after each meal.

In case of infection of the gums:

  • An appointment with a dentist is sometimes necessary to treat the pathology causing the presence of smelly bacteria causing infection.

In case of chronic dry mouth (xerostomia):

  • A dentist or doctor may prescribe an artificial saliva preparation or oral medication that stimulates saliva flow (Sulfarlem S 25, Bisolvon, or Salagen).
Attention , the many products on the market promising a fresh mouth, such as sweets, chewing gums or mouthwashes, only help temporarily to control the breath. They simply camouflage bad smells without addressing the source of the problem. Many of these products contain sugar and alcohol that can aggravate some oral conditions.

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