Bad Breath (Halitosis)

  • Medical Author:
    John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP

    John P. Cunha, DO, is a U.S. board-certified Emergency Medicine Physician. Dr. Cunha's educational background includes a BS in Biology from Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, and a DO from the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences in Kansas City, MO. He completed residency training in Emergency Medicine at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center in Newark, New Jersey.

  • Medical Editor: Jerry R. Balentine, DO, FACEP
    Jerry R. Balentine, DO, FACEP

    Jerry R. Balentine, DO, FACEP

    Dr. Balentine received his undergraduate degree from McDaniel College in Westminster, Maryland. He attended medical school at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine graduating in1983. He completed his internship at St. Joseph's Hospital in Philadelphia and his Emergency Medicine residency at Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Center in the Bronx, where he served as chief resident.

How do health care professionals diagnose halitosis?

You have halitosis if you have bad breath, and a doctor is not needed to diagnose the condition. However, if your bad breath is chronic, if it does not go away with proper oral hygiene, or you have other symptoms, you will need to see a doctor or dentist to diagnose the underlying cause.

A doctor or dentist will examine your mouth to look for signs of gum disease, dry mouth, or infections that may be the cause of your bad breath.

What are treatment options and home remedies for bad breath? What can be done to prevent bad breath?

Treatment of bad breath depends on the cause.

The American Dental Association recommends the following:

  • Brush and floss teeth regularly. Remember to brush the tongue, too, to remove bacteria from its surface. Brushing the tongue can help with bad breath caused by foods a person has eaten.
  • See a dentist regularly for checkups and to ensure dentures or braces are properly fitted and cleaned (and clean dentures thoroughly each night).
  • Quit smoking or using chewing tobacco.
  • Sugarless gum and sugar-free candy can also keep the mouth from drying out.
  • Keep the mouth moist by drinking water and chewing sugarless gum or sugar-free hard candy to stimulate the production of saliva. Eat a diet of foods that need to be thoroughly chewed to keep saliva flowing. Foods that require a lot of chewing, such as apples or carrots, are good options.
  • Over-the-counter mouthwash can help kill bad breath-causing bacteria and may temporarily mask bad breath odors, but it may not treat the underlying cause.

Keep the mouth moist by drinking water and chewing sugarless gum or sugar-free hard candy to stimulate the production of saliva. Mouthwash may temporarily mask bad breath odors, but it may not treat the underlying cause.

Natural remedies used in the treatment of bad breath include chewing on mint or parsley.

If bad breath is due to a health problem such as a sinus infection, diabetes, acid reflux (gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD), etc., then the underlying medical issue needs to be treated.

If bad breath is a side effect of taking a medication, discuss with a health care professional whether there are other options for medication that can be taken. Never stop taking a medication without first consulting your health care professional.

For patients who suffer from dry mouth (xerostomia), artificial saliva may be prescribed by a dentist.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/23/2017
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