What is Halitosis?

Most of us have heard the term “halitosis” used, but aren’t exactly sure what it means. Halitosis is nothing more than a medical term for a case of bad breath. Every one of us has experienced it at one time or another and there are many different things that can cause it. Some can be prevented or minimized, some cannot.


One of the leading causes of bad breath or “halitosis” is the food we eat. Some foods are worse than others. Most food such as fish or spicy foods will leave a lingering odor, but it tends to dissipate not long after the meal. The leading culprits of offensive halitosis are onions and garlic. The odor from consuming either of these can last for hours, even if you brush after meals. Food particles can become lodged in and between teeth as we eat. This can also be a cause of more severe bad breath and can be reduced or eliminated by brushing and flossing after meals.


Coffee and alcohol are two more leaders in causing halitosis for an extended period of time. Both beverages can leave breath smelling unpleasant for hours after consumption. Believe it or not, water, or being hydrated can be a factor in the severity of halitosis. Keeping the mouth moist and having plenty of saliva to flush debris and bacteria is important in minimizing mouth odor. “Morning breath” is a prime example of this. Since saliva slows down almost completely while you sleep, the bacteria that causes the odor is allowed to remain in the mouth and grow.

Illness and Infection

Another leading cause of halitosis is illness or infection. The illness and infection do not need to be in the mouth to cause breath to be bad or have a different odor. Sore throats, sinus infections, diabetes, vomiting or other digestive disorder are some of the most common causes. Changes in our bodies can always bring about a change in the way our breath smells. Mothers of small children will often be alerted to the onset of illness by the smell of the child’s breath. Medications and vitamins that are taken for the prevention or treatment of illness and infection can also cause bad breath as they are digested and metabolized.


Tobacco products are also a common cause of halitosis. Every form of tobacco use utilizes the mouth and therefore, is a prime contributor to lasting bad breath. Smoking cigars, pipes, and cigarettes leave a lingering, distinct odor that is not only left on the breath, but everything the smoke comes in contact with as well. Chewing tobacco will also cause bad breath and leave a distinct odor, but not quite as strong or long lasting as smoking tobacco does. Not to mention, tobacco use can result in rotted teeth, mouth ulcers, etc. Most of these side effects will cause bad breath as well.


The final, and probably one of the most important factors in halitosis to mention is oral hygiene. Keeping the mouth clean is one of the greatest factors in keeping bad breath under control. As previously stated, there are times that keeping your mouth clean will still not eliminate some forms of bad breath, but it will certainly help. Brushing and flossing after meals will help remove food particles and keep bacteria at a minimum. It will also work to keep teeth and gums healthy and free from infection.


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Dr. Nguyen
Dr. Nguyen

Dr. Nguyen is committed to providing high-quality dentistry using state-of-the-art equipment to help you achieve improved oral health and the beautiful smile you deserve.

Dr. Nguyen has served on the Virginia Board of Dentistry and has many achievements such as: Invisalign Premier and Teen Provider, Pre-Fellow with Academy of General Dentistry, Graduate of Aesthetic Continuum, Engel Institute for Dental Implant Training, WaveOne Endodontic Training, HD President’s Club.

Dr. Nguyen enjoys spending time with his wife and three daughters, staying active in the gym, and trying out new restaurants.  When he isn’t at work, you can find him playing basketball, tennis, football, or hiking.

“I want to make you feel right at home, exceed your expectations, and provide an amazing experience!”