Bad Breath Causes - Halitosis

Unless halitosis is caused by a disease, the way to resolve it will depend on the treatment. There are two types of halitosis: oral and extra-oral.
Bad Breath Causes - Halitosis

Last update: 08 November, 2018

We also refer to bad breath as halitosis, which relates to any unpleasant odors emitted from the mouth. You can eliminate this with regular and careful oral hygiene, as long as it isn’t a symptom of other diseases.

Causes of halitosis

Halitosis comes from the oral cavity itself and is mainly due to the accumulation of bacterial plaque on the tongue. Although it can also be caused by other issues, such as periodontal problems, tooth decay, and smoking.

When halitosis originates outside of the oral cavity, it’s called extra-oral halitosis. This is mainly due to systemic disorders of the upper or lower respiratory tract, digestive system, or liver and kidney diseases. Although, this only applies to the minority of cases.

Woman covering her mouth because of Halitosis

Reasons why people suffer from halitosis

Bad breath usually arises from the putrefaction processes caused by bacteria. Bacteria produce sulfurous metabolic products, these are the most common cause of bad breath.

The reasons why people may suffer from halitosis are:

  • Diseases of the periodontium and teeth. Problems such as gingivitis or cavities may also be responsible for bad breath.
  • Insufficient hygiene of interproximal spaces and gingival pockets. Microorganisms can build up within the interproximal spaces in broken teeth and, especially, in infected gingival pockets.
  • Bacterial debris and food debris on the tongue. The rough surface of the tongue, especially in the posterior third (where the tongue has no contact with the palate), is a storage area for food remains and bacterial tartar.
  • Tumors around the mouth, nose or throat. The bad smell may be due to the detachment of parts of a tumor.
  • Low salivation (Sjögren syndrome). A low salivation favors bad breath. The mucous membranes are dry and bacterial deposits form. Factors such as snoring, breathing through the mouth or fasting can also reduce salivation. Certain diseases of the salivary glands or medications (such as psychotropic drugs) can also reduce it. At night, the production of saliva usually falls sharply. So, when you get up the next morning, an unpleasant smell and taste are more noticeable. Also the elderly often suffer from less salivation.
Woman in his dentist avoiding Halitosis

Other factors that may cause halitosis

  • Bacterial infections of the throat, nose and pharynx area: infections such as sinusitis, tonsillitis or a cold (rhinitis), can all temporarily cause bad breath.
  • Lung diseases such as purulent bronchitis, pneumonia or lung abscess.
  • Metabolic decompensation such as diabetes mellitus or serious disorders of the kidneys or liver (hepatic coma).
  • Poisoning by substances such as phosphorus, arsenic or selenium.
  • Diseases of the digestive tract. For example, foreign bodies in the esophagus and intestinal occlusion (ileus). Stomach infections from Helicobacter pylori or dilations of the esophageal wall (esophageal diverticula).
  • Dentures: dentures and bridges can accumulate food debris. If left overnight, an unpleasant and characteristic smell occurs.
  • Drugs: there are medicines that produce xerostomia (dry mouth), such as anticholinergics and antidepressants, etc. Saliva favors the cleaning of the oral cavity and reduces odor.
  • Tobacco: smoking creates a characteristic breath that may last a few days longer, even after quitting.
  • Fasting periods: skipping meals and eating a hypocaloric diet can encourage bad breath.
  • Diet: after the intake of some foods (onion, garlic) or alcohol consumption. Certain metabolites can be absorbed at the gastrointestinal level, pass into the circulation, are metabolized in the mucus and liver and are then expelled through the lungs.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.