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eMed previously Babylon Health

Bad Breath

Reviewed by Dr Claudia Pastides, 24th April 2019

Bad breath is often temporary, but for some people it is an embarrassing ongoing condition. Also known as halitosis, bad breath is caused by bacteria build up in the mouth, and can affect people of all ages. It is a very common problem, and many people don’t know themselves if they have bad breath.

If you think you have halitosis, the first thing to do is to improve your daily oral hygiene routine and see if this is the problem. However, if bad breath persists then you should see a GP for a medical assessment, as there could be another reason for the halitosis which needs investigating.


Apart from a strong unpleasant odour, halitosis doesn’t have any other symptoms. It’s possible that you may have a bad taste in the mouth in addition to a bad smell. Sometimes bad breath is actually a symptom of an underlying health problem or the result of an infection or illness.

Causes of bad breath

There’s a few things which can cause bad breath, and usually it’s only a temporary condition. More often than not, it’s caused by a build-up of bacteria in the mouth which release smelly toxins. While unpleasant, if this is the cause then the problem can usually be fixed with better dental hygiene. Certain foods and lifestyle factors can also contribute to bad breath, including garlic, coffee, onions, cigarettes and alcohol.

Sometimes a bout of halitosis can occur even if you have exceptional dental hygiene. Certain medication is known to cause bad breath, and if you’ve recently had an infection this could be the culprit. Dry mouth and other medical conditions can sometimes cause bad breath too. If you don’t know the cause of your halitosis, book an appointment to see a doctor.

Treating bad breath

Most of the time bad breath will clear up by itself if you step up your dental hygiene routine. Avoid strong smelling foods and stop smoking to improve overall oral health. Make sure you have regular dental check-ups, and brush your teeth and tongue at least twice daily to remove bacteria.

If this doesn’t improve the smell of your breath, then there may be an underlying medical reason. Speak to our GPs to see what treatment is available.

The information provided is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Seek the advice of a doctor with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never delay seeking or disregard professional medical advice because of something you have read here.