Patient Education:


Oral Malodor: You Don't Have To Be Embarrassed Anymore

Oral Malodor: You Don't Have to Be Embarrassed Anymore

Oral malodor, also known as halitosis and commonly referred to as bad breath, is an embarrassing odor that emerges from the mouth and is easily detected by others. Surprisingly, some people with bad breath might not even know they have a problem.1 A primary source for oral malodor is the tongue, home to bacteria stored inside all of its grooves and cracks. When particles of food aren't completely removed from the mouth, they collect bacteria on the tongue and around the gums.2 These bacteria feed on the food and protein material in the mouth, as well as their byproducts.2 A possible result–bad breath.

The foods you eat affect how your breath smells, because what you eat affects the air you exhale.3 After being absorbed into the blood stream, some of the components of foods are transferred into the lungs, where they're expelled when you breathe. Ingredients such as garlic, for example, contribute to bad breath odor.3 The objectionable odors may linger until your body naturally eliminates those foods' components.4

There are other reasons why oral malodor can occur. Chronic dry mouth can cause oral malodor because saliva is necessary to clean the mouth and remove particles that may cause bad breath.4 Bad breath may also be caused by a medical condition, such as respiratory infections, diabetes, or gastrointestinal disturbance.4

Your Dental Professional Can Help

Regular oral hygiene cleanings can keep your mouth as fresh and clean as possible.5 Remember to make–and keep –regular appointments with your dentist and dental hygienist.

Bad Breath? Your dentist may refer you to your primary care physician to determine if the cause is from a medical problem.

Having your teeth professionally cleaned on a regular basis may significantly reduce halitosis. The dentist and hygienist remove deposits on teeth above and below the gum line that harbor bacteria, and also may advise you about diet to help control bad breath.4 If your dentist determines that the cause of your bad breath is gum disease, you may need a specialized periodontal cleaning to remove the odor-causing bacteria and plaque.5

If after a routine examination and cleaning you still experience bad breath–even though your mouth is considered healthy– the cause may be a medical disorder. 1,3 In such instances, your dentist may refer you to your primary care physician to determine if the cause is from a medical problem.1,3,4


If you would like to print additional copies of this piece log on to our Web site, You can also personalize copies for your practice on a variety of oral hygiene topics.

References are available at the Contemporary Oral Hygiene Web site.


The content of this guide is for information purposes only. It does not substitute for the dentist's professional assessment based on the individual patient's case.

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