Bad Breath (Halitosis)


Halitosis, or bad breath, is a rather common but distressing condition that can cause low self esteem and social anxiety.

Sometimes, halitosis sufferers do not realise they have a problem until loved ones tell them. This is due to the individual’s nose getting used to the constant foul odour from the mouth. On the other hand, some individuals suffer from halitophobia, also known as delusion halitosis. This means that they have an exaggerated perception of how bad their breath smells, even though no problem exists. Due to individual perceptions and thresholds, it can be difficult to self-diagnose halithosis.

Signs and Symptoms

Halitosis is usually a sign of other conditions. Refer to section “Causes”.

When to Seek Medical Attention

If the problem persists despite your best efforts, or it is affecting your daily life, please visit a dentist or doctor to rule out underlying medical conditions or halitophobia.


Most cases of halithosis originate from the mouth. For instance, tooth decays, tonsil stones, gum disease, dry mouth or dentures could lead to bad breath. Sometimes, however, halithosis is due to other reasons. These include:

  • Eating certain foods and spices
  • Respiratory tract infection
  • Diabetes
  • Acid reflux
  • Smoking

Lifestyle Modifications

Treatment of halitosis would depend on its root cause. However, as most cases of bad breath originate from the mouth, maintaining good oral hygiene would be helpful for most people. To prevent bad breath:

  • Clean teeth, gums and tongue twice a day, and floss teeth at least once a day. This can help you to remove plaque from difficult-to-reach areas.
  • Maintain your dentures or dental appliances such as mouth guards or retainers properly, as directed by your dentist.
  • Replace your tooth brush every 3 to 4 mouths, or when the bristles start to look frayed.
  • Stop smoking. Smoking causes bad breath due to particles found in tobacco. It can also dry out your mouth, and lead to problems such as tooth decay and gum disease. Also, avoid excessive consumption of coffee and alcohol, which can dry out your mouth further.
  • Avoid eating foods with strong odours, e.g. garlic.

Treatment options

  • Antibacterial mouthwashes containing ingredients such as chlorhexidine can help by killing bacteria responsible for bad breath. Mouthwashes containing zinc and chlorine dioxide can also neutralise bad smells in the mouth. If you suspect your halitosis is caused by a dry mouth, try a mouthwash specially formulated for that.
  • Chewing sugarless Xylitol gum can help saliva production. Xylitol gum is available from your pharmacy.


Related products