If ever you’ve caught a whiff of something stinky while someone’s been speaking to you (or even while you’ve been speaking yourself), you have just been the unfortunate victim of halitosis.

About Halitosis

As the title of this blog may have given away, halitosis is simply the medical term for bad breath. Bad breath can be slightly smelly or it can be knock-out-pungent-evacuate-the-room-did-something-die-in-your-mouth malodorous. Either way, it’s an undesirable situation.

If it makes you feel any better, about a quarter of the general population has bad breath, at least at some point. The vast majority of cases are caused by an issue in the mouth or throat, such as from:

  • Poor oral hygiene
  • Gum disease
  • Stuck and festering food particles
  • Dirty dentures
  • Throat infection
  • Mouth cancers
  • Dry mouth
  • Tonsil stones

In addition to other causes, halitosis can also be a symptom of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), a sinus infection, a foreign object stuck in the nose, certain medications, metabolic diseases, or aspiration pneumonia.

The effects of bad breath can range from your conversation partner quietly shuffling a few inches away to questioning whether something died in your mouth before evacuating the room. It’s no wonder that halitosis can be associated with anxiety and social (or at least conversational) withdrawal. For some people, the fear of having bad breath can be all-consuming, even without any evidence to suggest the breath is at all bad, a condition known as halitophobia or olfactory reference syndrome.

7 Simple Home Treatments

Fortunately, most situations of bad breath can be managed at home. Unless you notice something is obviously not quite right, such as a large cancerous-looking growth in your mouth or bleeding gums from periodontitis, it would be reasonable to start with some home remedies.

  1. Brush your teeth twice a day to remove food particles and avoid plaque accumulation, which are breeding grounds for smelly bacteria.
  2. Floss daily, which gets rid of the food and plaque in places that your toothbrush can’t reach.
  3. Clean all oral appliances daily, including dentures, mouthguards, and splints. This minimizes bacteria growing on these devices and then being returned to the mouth.
  4. Brush your tongue regularly, as halitosis-causing bacteria and food can accumulate on this surface too. You may find a tongue scraper helpful.
  5. Drink enough water every day, which not only keeps your whole body hydrated but also rinses out your mouth.
  6. Keep your mouth moist by avoiding alcohol, caffeine, and smoking, which often dry out the mouth and contribute to bad breath. Sugar-free gum and mints can also help to increase saliva production.
  7. Rethink your diet. Pungent foods such as garlic, onion, and tuna, though delicious to eat, are not so delicious to smell on someone’s breath. Depending on your culinary preferences, it may not be possible to completely eliminate these ingredients from your diet but you can at least consider brushing your teeth or having a mint after your meal.

If you have been brushing, flossing, drinking water, and chewing gum like there’s no tomorrow and yet you’re still clearing out the room every time you open your mouth to speak, it may be time to see a healthcare professional. A good start would be the dentist, who can assess your mouth for gum disease, tooth decay, or other dental issues that may be contributing to bad breath. If your oral cavity is in tip-top shape, your next stop should be to your family doctor to investigate other possible causes.