Print-Friendly
Bookmarks

Breath odor

Bad breath; Halitosis

Learn about Same Day/Next Day appointments for Primary Care and Orthopaedic Services at Wake Forest Baptist.

Breath odor is the scent of the air you breathe out of your mouth. Unpleasant breath odor is commonly called bad breath.

Considerations

Bad breath is usually related to poor dental hygiene. Not brushing and flossing regularly causes sulfur compounds to be released by bacteria in the mouth.

Some disorders will produce distinct breath odors. Some examples are:

  • A fruity odor to the breath is a sign of ketoacidosis, which may occur in diabetes. It is a potentially life-threatening condition.
  • Breath that smells like feces can occur with prolonged vomiting, especially when there is a bowel obstruction. It may also occur temporarily if a person has a tube placed through the nose or mouth to drain their stomach.
  • The breath may have an ammonia-like odor (also described as urine-like or "fishy") in people with chronic kidney failure.

Causes

Bad breath may be caused by:

Some diseases that may be cause breath odor are:

Home Care

Use proper dental hygiene, especially flossing. Remember that mouthwashes are not effective in treating the underlying problem.

Fresh parsley or a strong mint is often an effective way to fight temporary bad breath. Avoid smoking.

Otherwise, follow your health care provider's instructions to treat any underlying cause of bad breath.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Contact your provider if:

  • Breath odor does not go away and there is not an obvious cause (such as smoking or eating foods that cause the odor).
  • You have breath odor and signs of a respiratory infection, such as fever, cough, or face pain with discharge from your nose.

What to Expect at Your Office Visit

Your provider will take a medical history and perform a physical exam.

You may be asked the following medical history questions:

  • Is there a specific odor (such as fish, ammonia, fruit, feces, or alcohol)?
  • Have you recently eaten a spicy meal, garlic, cabbage, or other "odorous" food?
  • Do you take vitamin supplements?
  • Do you smoke?
  • What home care and oral hygiene measures have you tried? How effective are they?
  • Have you had a recent sore throat, sinus infection, tooth abscess, or other illness?
  • What other symptoms do you have?

The physical exam will include a thorough inspection of your mouth and nose. A throat culture may be taken if you have a sore throat or mouth sores.

In rare cases, tests that may be performed include:

Antibiotics may be prescribed for some conditions. For an object in the nose, your provider will use an instrument to remove it.

References

Murr AH. Approach to the patient with nose, sinus, and ear disorders. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 25th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 426.

Stein PS, Miller CS, Fowler CB. Oral disorders. In: Ham RJ, Sloane PD, Warshaw GA, Potter JF, Flaherty E, eds. Primary Care Geriatrics: A Case-Based Approach. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2013:chap 53.

BACK TO TOP

         

        Review Date: 2/22/2016

        Reviewed By: Michael Kapner, DDS, general and aesthetic dentistry, Norwalk Medical Center, Norwalk, CT. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

        The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., a business unit of Ebix, Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
        adam.com

         
         
         

         

         

        A.D.A.M. content is best viewed in IE9 or above, Fire Fox and Google Chrome browser.
        USNWR 2013-2014 Magnet Hospital Recognition Consumer Choice 2014 Best Doctors Joint Commission Report

        Disclaimer: The information on this website is for general informational purposes only and SHOULD NOT be relied upon as a substitute for sound professional medical advice, evaluation or care from your physician or other qualified health care provider.