Halitosis: Definition, Causes, and Remedies

Most people get bad breath from time to time. It’s a common problem that can cause embarrassment, anxiety, and problems in relationships. Individuals often don’t realize they have it, so it’s best to ask a close friend or family member if you’re wondering for yourself.

Halitosis (bad breath) might indicate poor oral hygiene, tobacco use, or an untreated infection — but you can also get bad breath from a healthy diet. Halitosis is not usually a warning sign of something dangerous, but it’s always best to practice good oral hygiene — or quit tobacco products.

Below, I cover the primary causes of halitosis and a compilation of the best home remedies and prevention methods. If you want an expert’s opinion on your specific case of chronic halitosis, schedule an appointment at Rejuvenation Dentistry today.

What is halitosis?

Halitosis is bad breath — also known as fetor oris. Typically, mouth odor is caused by volatile sulfur compounds (VSCs) produced in your mouth. Diet and untreated infections are also causes of bad breath.

Virtually everyone has experienced morning breath in their lifetime, or perhaps you have a medical condition contributing to your bad breath. Studies show about half the human population deals with halitosis.

It’s a common, usually benign issue but may indicate a severe problem in your oral microbiome. Your oral health is connected to your whole body health and vice-versa.

What causes halitosis?

Here are the most common causes of halitosis:

    • Foods like garlic or onion
    • Drinks like coffee or alcohol
    • Tobacco products
    • Poor oral hygiene
    • Improper cleaning of oral devices such as dentures
    • Dry mouth (xerostomia)
    • Periodontal disease or gingivitis
    • Oral infections like a tooth infection or thrush
    • Sinus infections
    • Postnasal drip
    • Respiratory infections like bronchitis
    • Gastrointestinal disorders like gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
    • Liver or kidney disease
    • Diabetes
    • Tonsil stones
    • Certain autoimmune disorders
    • Medications with dry mouth or halitosis side effects

Halitosis Symptoms

Below is a list of potential symptoms that may accompany halitosis:

Prevention and Home Remedies

How can you get rid of halitosis? Here are the best home remedies and prevention methods for bad breath. Any of these might be the treatment of halitosis you’ve been looking for.

  • Practice good oral hygiene. Brush twice a day with a soft-bristled sonic toothbrush. Consider using a tongue scraper to gently scrape off excess bacteria from the back of the tongue.
  • Reduce the risk of cavities (tooth decay). Use high-quality toothpaste and floss to remove food particles and plaque between your teeth.
  • Lower risk of gingivitis (gum disease). When you brush your teeth, make gentle circles at a 45-degree angle towards your gums. This motion and angle help remove harmful bacteria from under your gums, preventing gum disease.
  • Rinse out your mouth. Do not use alcohol-based mouthwash, which will dry out your mouth, particularly in the short term. Use water as a mouth rinse to eliminate food particles and loose plaque buildup.
  • Change your diet. Avoid smelly foods that promote VSCs or linger on your breath, such as garlic, onions, coffee, alcohol, horseradish, canned fish, and dairy products.
  • Drink plenty of water. Drinking water helps keep you hydrated, washes out stray food particles, and help prevent dry mouth.
  • Try a mint or chewing gum for a temporary fix. A pleasant-smelling mint or gum may mask bad breath odor. I recommend sugar-free mints or chewing gum.
  • Quit tobacco products. Tobacco products contribute to oral disease, cancer, stained teeth, dry mouth, and bad breath.
  • Don’t vape. Vaping may not contain tobacco, but e-cigarettes can still stain teeth and lead to dry mouth, which is a leading cause of bad breath.
  • Talk to your doctor about artificial saliva. If your natural salivary glands do not produce enough saliva to moisten your mouth continuously, talk to your healthcare provider about artificial saliva, which may be beneficial for dry mouth.
  • Pay attention to other symptoms. If deep tooth pain accompanies oral malodor, you may have a tooth infection, for instance. Watch for signs of diabetes, bronchitis, gut disease, or other health conditions accompanying halitosis.
  • Check your medication side effects. A common side effect of medications is dry mouth, which can result in bad breath. (Seriously, a lot of drugs can cause dry mouth.) Talk with your doctor if your medications are causing dry mouth and chronic bad breath.

Persistent bad breath? We can help.

If you have persistent bad breath, here’s when you should contact your healthcare provider right away:

  • If you feel a lot of pain, particularly in your teeth
  • If IBS symptoms accompany your bad breath, such as bloating and flatulence
  • If you’ve improved your dental hygiene but made no difference in bad breath
  • If you’ve quit using tobacco but bad breath persists
  • If you can’t get rid of chronic halitosis by any means

If you’re looking for beyond-the-surface dental care, schedule an appointment with us at Rejuvenation Dentistry. We are a biological dentist’s practice using conservative, non-invasive, as-natural-as-possible treatments that address the underlying cause instead of masking symptoms.


  1. Aylıkcı, B. U., & Çolak, H. (2013). Halitosis: From diagnosis to management. Journal of natural science, biology, and medicine, 4(1), 14. Full text: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3633265/
  2. Aylıkcı, B. U., & Çolak, H. (2013). Halitosis: From diagnosis to management. Journal of natural science, biology, and medicine, 4(1), 14. Full text: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3633265/
  3. Cifcibasi, E., Koyuncuoglu, C. Z., Baser, U., Bozacioglu, B., Kasali, K., & Cintan, S. (2014). Comparison of manual toothbrushes with different bristle designs in terms of cleaning efficacy and potential role on gingival recession. European journal of dentistry, 8(03), 395-401. Full text: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4144140/
  4. Office of the Surgeon General. (2004). Cancer, Oral cavity and pharyngeal cancers. 2004 Surgeon General’s Report-The Health Consequences of Smoking, 63-115. Full text: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK44701/
  5. Alhejoury, H. A., Mogharbel, L. F., Al-Qadhi, M. A., Shamlan, S. S., Alturki, A. F., Babatin, W. M., … & Pullishery, F. (2021). Artificial saliva for therapeutic management of xerostomia: A narrative review. Journal of Pharmacy & Bioallied Sciences, 13(Suppl 2), S903. Full text: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8686887/

Dr. Gerry Curatola is a renowned biologic restorative dentist with more than 40 years of clinical practice experience.

He studied neuroscience at Colgate University and attended dental school at the New York University (NYU) College of Dentistry where he now serves as Adjunct Clinical Associate Professor in the Department of Cariology and Comprehensive Care.