Bad breath

The medical name for this is halitosis. Bad breath is something which affects most people at some point in their lives and can be rather anti-social. It is usually caused by a poor oral hygiene routine or spicy or strong smelling food but in other cases it can be the sign of an underlying problem.

One example is a throat infection.

Causes of bad breath

Bad breath is often caused by tooth decay or gum disease but can also be caused by:

  • Throat infection
  • Smoking
  • Dry mouth
  • Strong scented food e.g. garlic
  • Congested sinuses, e.g. sinusitis

Throat infections such as tonsillitis cause bad breath as well as an inflamed throat, and pain when swallowing. What happens is that a virus or bacteria attacks the tissues within the throat which causes pain and soreness, and bad breath.

In most cases these heal by themselves or with the aid of mouthwashes and painkillers.

But if there is no improvement or these symptoms worsen then this might be ‘strep throat’.Strep throat or streptococcus throat is caused by bacteria and usually responds to antibiotics.

Find out more in our strep throat section.

Can bad breath be the sign of a serious condition?

In most cases it is caused by poor dental health or certain types of foods. If you have a sore throat then this may also trigger bad breath.

But there are a few rare cases where bad breath is a symptom of a serious condition such as diabetes or a lung infection. These require further investigation via your GP.

Treatment for bad breath

If your bad breath is caused by tooth decay or other dental issues then you need to visit your dentist. He or she will advise you about a suitable dental hygiene routine as well as treating your tooth decay.

Bad breath can be caused by pungent foods such as chillies, garlic and onions. If you enjoy these then there is no need to give them up but think about how often you have them. Make sure that you clean your teeth after each meal and use a mouthwash.

Avoid these types of foods if you have a sore throat as they will exacerbate this. Drink plenty of fluids and suck throat sweets to help lubricate your throat as well as easing any pain and swelling.

These and are discussed further in our treatment for sore throat section.

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