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Bad breath

Alessandro Villa, DDS, PhD, MPH
Jean M Bruch, DMD, MD
Section Editor
Daniel G Deschler, MD, FACS
Deputy Editor
Daniel J Sullivan, MD, MPH


Halitosis (from the Latin word for breath, “halitus”; also known as oral malodor, “fetor ex ore,” or “fetor oris”) is a common condition. Patients may not be aware of their own bad breath and learn of it from another person.

This topic will cover the epidemiology, pathogenesis, causes, evaluation, and management of halitosis. Related topics such as gingivitis, periodontitis, and odontogenic infections are discussed elsewhere. (See "Gingivitis and periodontitis in adults: Classification and dental treatment" and "Gingivitis and periodontitis in children and adolescents" and "Epidemiology, pathogenesis, and clinical manifestations of odontogenic infections" and "Complications, diagnosis, and treatment of odontogenic infections".)


Halitosis – Halitosis is defined as “malodor with intensity beyond a socially acceptable level perceived” [1,2]. It is a significant concern for many individuals and may negatively affect their quality of life and personal relationships [3].

Physiologic halitosis – Bad breath that does not have a specific cause. It is usually worse in the morning and often transient.

Pathologic halitosis – Bad breath that results from a specific identifiable cause.

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: Nov 27, 2017.
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