What is bad breath?

Bad breath is a common symptom of poor oral hygiene, eating certain foods, using tobacco products, or even dry mouth. The medical term for bad breath is halitosis. Bad breath results from sulfur compounds released by bacteria in the mouth, breath odors, or salivary gland dysfunction.

Mouth Problems Spotlight

Poor oral hygiene is a common cause of bad breath. Without brushing and flossing daily, food particles remain in the mouth, tongue, and between the teeth. These food particles collect bacteria, causing bad breath. Infections of the gums (gingivitis) and salivary glands can both result in bad breath. Other common causes include dry mouth and smoking or chewing tobacco.

Certain medical disorders can cause bad breath, such as sinusitis and bronchitis. Gastrointestinal disorders may result in breath that smells like feces; this may indicate a bowel obstruction. Breath with a fruity odor may be a sign of diabetic ketoacidosis, a potentially life-threatening condition. Liver failure may be indicated if breath has an ammonia-like odor.

Bad breath alone is rarely a result of a serious problem. However, you should seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you experience bad breath along with other serious symptoms, such as high fever (higher than 101 degrees Fahrenheit), difficulty breathing, or prolonged vomiting.

If your bad breath is persistent or causes you concern, seek prompt medical care.


What other symptoms might occur with bad breath?

Bad breath may accompany other symptoms, which vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition.... Read more about bad breathsymptoms


What causes bad breath?

Bad breath results from the action of bacteria that cause the breakdown of food particles in your mouth. Eating foods, such as onions and garlic, are a common source of bad breath. Chemicals from these foods are absorbed into the bloodstream, carried to your lungs, and exhaled.... Read more about bad breathcauses

Medical Reviewer: All content has been reviewed by board-certified physicians under the direction of Rich Klasco, M.D., FACEP. Last Annual Review Date: May 2, 2011 Copyright: © Copyright 2011 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Mouth, Teeth and Oral Health