What causes halitosis in patients? Halitosis, or bad breath, can be caused by a number of factors. While patients may be aware that certain foods, such as garlic, can trigger bad breath, they may be less aware that poor dental hygiene and underlying oral health conditions can also trigger halitosis.1 As an oral health professional, you can help educate your patients on the topic of halitosis.1
Summary of Halitosis
“Halitosis” is another word for “bad breath.”1 Halitosis is a fairly common problem. Research shows that nearly 50% of the adult population have experienced bad breath at some point in their life.3 Halitosis may be an indicator of poor dental hygiene or a serious oral health condition. As such, each patient with halitosis requires proper evaluation and treatment.
Even if your patient’s halitosis is due to benign causes, such as eating certain foods, halitosis can have negative consquences. Many people with halitosis experience embarrassment and, in some cases, even anxiety.1 Educating patients about halitosis and evaluating the state of their oral health can help stop halitosis from affecting their day-to-day lives.
How Halitosis Develops
85% of cases of halitosis originate in the oral cavity.2 The oral cavity contains bacterial species which produce the odorous compounds that cause halitosis.2 Poor oral hygiene causes bacterial species to multiply and increase instances of halitosis.2 In addition, poor oral hygiene can lead to inflammation of gingival or periodontal tissues, which in turn also cause halitosis.2
Approximately 15% of persistent halitosis may result from non-oral sources.2 Which include respiratory disease, gastrointestinal disease, hepatic disease, drugs (blood borne), and metabolic conditions.
Common Causes of Halitosis
Determining the cause of your patient’s halitosis is the first step in prescribing a course of treatment. Below, we cover seven causes of bad breath in patients:
- Bacteria in the mouth play a role in the development of halitosis.3 The mouth provides a warm, moist, humid environment for bacteria species to thrive.3 Bacteria feed on leftover food in the mouth not removed by brushing and flossing, producing malodors in the process.
- Dry mouth is a cause of halitosis.3 Dry mouth, also known as xerostomia, is an inadequate flow of saliva in the mouth.4 Saliva helps clean the mouth. Without enough saliva, the mouth isn’t being cleaned properly, and halitosis may develop
- Periodontal Disease as mentioned above, inflammation of gingival and periodontal tissues can cause bad breath. Excessive plaque buildup can lead to periodontitis, advanced gum disease. Patients may experience halitosis as a symptom of periodontitis.3
- Food If your patient is concerned about their halitosis, talk to them about their diet. Explain that certain foods can trigger halitosis, including garlic, onions, and coffee. Discuss healthy ways to limit these foods if halitosis is a concern of theirs, and make sure they know they don’t necessarily need to give up these foods completely.3
- Medical Conditions Non-oral causes of bad breath are less common. If you’ve ruled out all other potential causes of your patient’s halitosis, an underlying medical condition could be the problem. Medical conditions that can cause halitosis include respiratory disease, gastrointestinal disease, hepatic disease, drugs (blood borne), and metabolic conditions.2 Advise your patient to visit a healthcare professional if you suspect an underlying medical condition.
Encourage patients to exercise proper oral hygiene to prevent halitosis from developing. Depending on the cause of their bad breath, recommend suitable products to help. Products such as biotene can help relieve dry mouth symptoms, while parodontax is clinically proven to help improve gum health.
Learn more about causes of oral health conditions. Explore information on enamel wear causes and tooth sensitivity causes.