Common Health Problems  »  Dental Health

Bad breath (halitosis) is a social concern. It can be a health issue, too.

Signs & Symptoms

  1. A bad odor from the mouth. To detect this, wipe the back of your tongue with a piece of white, sterile gauze. After 5 minutes, smell the gauze for an odor.

  2. An unpleasant taste is in the mouth.

  3. You are told you have bad breath.


Bacteria on the tongue, dry mouth, and strong odors of food, such as garlic and onions, are common causes of bad breath. Other causes are smoking, alcohol, ill-fitting dentures, and infections of the gums or teeth. Less often, bad breath is due to another problem, such as a sinus infection or indigestion.


When bad breath lingers for more than a day, you're probably dealing with a case of Halitosis -- the medical term for an offensive, foul-smelling breath odor.


American Dental Association


The Self-Care/Prevention items listed below treat most cases of bad breath. If not, your dentist can prescribe:

  1. A special toothpaste.

  2. A mouth rinse.

  3. A special brush.

  4. A tongue scraper.

  5. An antimicrobial solution.

Questions to Ask

With bad breath, do you have any of these problems?

  1. Bleeding, swelling, or pain in the mouth or throat.

  2. Chronic cough.

  3. Digestion problems. Weight loss.

  4. Puffy, reddened gums.

Does bad breath continue after you use self-care for 2 weeks?

Self-Care / Prevention

  1. Practice good oral hygiene. (See Regular Dental Care.)

  2. If you wear dentures, clean and care for them as advised by your dentist.

  3. Don’t smoke. Limit or avoid alcohol.

  4. To prevent dry mouth, drink plenty of water and other liquids.

  5. Use a baking soda toothpaste. Brush your teeth and tongue. Do this after all meals, if you can. If not, rinse your mouth with water, chew parsley, mint leaves, celery, or carrots after meals.

  6. Don’t rely on mouthwash or mints. They mask bad breath and help cause it, because they dry out the mouth. Try chlorophyll tablets.

  7. Eat at regular times. Eat nutritious foods. Limit sugary foods.

  8. Chew sugarless gum or suck on lemon or other citrus drops. These help make saliva. Saliva helps deal with bacteria on the teeth and washes away food particles.