Bad breath, or halitosis, is a common problem that affects around 2.4% of the adult population. It is usually caused by sulfur-producing bacteria that live on the tongue and throat, which break down proteins and release odorous volatile sulfur compounds (VSCs). However, in some cases, bad breath can be a sign of a more serious medical condition. Runny nose, respiratory and tonsil infections, sinus problems, diabetes, liver and kidney problems, and certain blood disorders can all cause bad breath.
In rare cases, it could be a symptom of cancer or metabolic disorders. If your dentist doesn't find any oral health problems, such as tooth decay or gum disease, your primary care doctor can determine if another condition is causing halitosis. Tests can be performed to confirm the presence of bad breath by measuring the intensity of the smell on a predefined scale and using instruments to detect specific compounds related to halitosis. If poor oral hygiene is the cause of bad breath, dental cleaning and better oral hygiene at home are likely to help.
However, if halitosis is a symptom of another condition in another part of the body, your GP can help you with the proper diagnosis and treatment. A research study found that halitosis affects approximately 31.8% of the population. Fortunately, most cases of bad breath can be eliminated by treating the underlying health condition. Poor oral hygiene, gum diseases such as gingivitis and periodontitis, and dry mouth are all associated with halitosis.