Bad breath is breath that has an unpleasant odor. It's also known as halitosis. This odor can strike from time to time, or it can be long-lasting, depending on the cause.

Millions of bacteria live in the mouth, particularly on the back of the tongue. In many people, they are the primary causes of bad breath. The mouth's warm, moist conditions are ideal for the growth of these bacteria. Most bad breath is caused by something in the mouth.

Some types of bad breath are considered to be fairly normal. They usually are not health concerns. One example is "morning mouth." This occurs because of changes in your mouth while you sleep. During the day, saliva washes away decaying food and odors. The body makes less saliva at night. Your mouth becomes dry, and dead cells stick to your tongue and to the inside of your cheeks. When bacteria use these cells for food, they produce a foul odor.

Causes of Bad Breath

1. Poor dental hygiene - Infrequent or improper brushing and flossing, which allows bits of food to decay inside the mouth
2. Infections in the mouth - Periodontal (gum) disease
3. Respiratory tract infections - Throat, sinus or lung infections
4. External agents - Garlic, onions, coffee, cigarette smoking, chewing tobacco
5. Dry mouth (xerostomia) - Caused by salivary gland problems, medicines or "mouth breathing"
6. Systemic (body wide) illnesses - Diabetes, liver disease, kidney disease, lung disease, sinus disease, reflux disease and others
7. Psychiatric illness - Some people may believe they have bad breath, but others do not notice it. This is referred to as "pseudo halitosis."


You may not always know that you have bad breath. That's because odor-detecting cells in the nose eventually get used to the smell. Other people may notice and react by recoiling as you speak.

Other symptoms depend on the underlying cause of bad breath

1. Poor dental hygiene - Teeth are coated with film or plaque. You may have food trapped between the teeth and pale or swollen gums.
2. Infections in the mouth - Symptoms depend on the type of infection. They can include :
a) Red or swollen gums that may bleed easily, especially after brushing or flossing
b) Pus between teeth or a pocket of pus (abscess) at the base of a tooth
c) Loose teeth or a change in how a denture fits
d) Painful, open sores on the tongue or gums
3. Respiratory tract infections - Sore throat, swollen lymph nodes ("swollen glands") in the neck, fever, stuffy nose, a greenish or yellowish nasal discharge, a mucus-producing cough
4. External agents - Cigarette stains on fingers and teeth, a uniform yellow "coffee stain" on teeth
5. Dry mouth - Symptoms may include:
a) Difficulty swallowing dry foods
b) Difficulty speaking for a long time because of mouth dryness
c) Burning in the mouth
d) An unusually high number of cavities
e) Dry eyes (in Sjogren's syndrome)
6. Systemic (body wide) illnesses - Symptoms of diabetes, lung disease, kidney failure or liver disease

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