Halitosis (bad breath)

Hali- what? Halitosis, better known as BAD BREATH.

We have all experienced bad breath whether it was our own or somebody else’s. It can be a mild transient condition or a debilitating chronic social issue.



But what are the causes of bad breath?

  • Garlic and spicy foods– actually this is resolved easily, give it a day or two and you will be fine!
  • Smoking and alcohol consumption– These dry the mouth. Without saliva to flush away the nasties, the bad breath bacteria can proliferate.
  • Gut– gases can be expelled upwards as well as downwards…if you know what I mean!
  • Sinus– If you have a head cold and your nose is blocked, this can cause halitosis, but there is also a condition called “post nasal drip” which is actually sinus fluid passing down at the back of the throat that can occur unnoticed. You may require a saline nasal spray or trip to an ENT (Ear nose and throat specialist) to resolve this.
  • Mouth– Another main cause of halitosis is the millions of bacteria present in our mouths. There are over 700 identified types of bacteria and no one type of mouthwash can deal with them all. There can also be pieces of food, both large and small, caught between the teeth.
  • Inadequate denture hygiene– odour-causing bacteria and food particles can cause bad breath if dentures are not properly cleaned
  • Medical issues– Different odour characteristics can be indicative of an underlying medical issue such as diabetes and uremia. If halitosis persists then a consultation with your GP would be advisable.

Bacteria can break down substances in the mouth to form VSC’s (Volatile Sulphur Compounds) which give a stinky sulphur smell. If we don’t brush our teeth, floss and keep our gums healthy, these VSC’s can cause a smelly problem. They like to live on our tongue, so a tongue cleaner or an upside down teaspoon is a good idea to scrape the top surface of the tongue (a toothbrush is not efficient at this).


A professional scale and clean by your dentist or hygienist is necessary to remove any calcified plaque build-up and receive instructions on how to maintain your mouth with flossing and brushing.

Persistent bad breath or a bad taste in the mouth may be a warning sign of gum (periodontal) disease. Gum disease is caused by the buildup of plaque on teeth. Bacteria cause the formation of toxins which then irritate the gums. If gum disease continues untreated, it can damage the gums and jawbone.

After you have cleaned all areas of your mouth, there are specific mouthwashes that can be used depending on the cause of your halitosis. They may contain chlorine dioxide, hydrogen peroxide or other active ingredients aimed at reducing the bacterial numbers. However, they will be ineffective if the cause of your problem is still untreated. Keep in mind that halitosis is treatable, but a mint is only a short term disguise!