Halitosis is a generic term used to describe unpleasant odor coming from the mouth, also known as bad breath. Bad breath is relatively common and affects about 50 - 60 percent of people (Campisi, 2011). The problem is bad breath (and a bad taste in the mouth) can be caused by a number of factors. For the majority of sufferers, the bad breath originates in the mouth. There is no single bacteria to blame for bad breath or a bad taste in your mouth, rather bad breath is likely caused by a complex interaction of several different bacteria.
Halitosis can also originate outside of the mouth. For example, bad breath is significantly associated with gastroesophageal reflux disease (Moshkowitz, 2007) and is frequently a complaint of those suffering reflux symptoms. However, this association is somewhat complicated because there are some disorders that cause reflux symptoms that are less likely to also cause bad breath than others. Also there could be a combination of an oral and non-oral reason for bad breath.
Bad breath may be a symptom of a serious disease. It can also cause embarrassment and affect one’s professional and social interactions. If you suspect that your chronic bad breath is the result of GERD, it is important that you see a specialist who is familiar with both the direct and indirect manifestations of the disease. Just as there are effective treatments for GERD, treatments such as the right proton pump inhibitor at the right dose may also be effective for halitosis.
Tracy Davenport, Ph.D., is a freelance health writer and the C.E.O. of Tracy’s Smoothie Place. She serves as the expert on a weekly radio show about health and wellness and is the author of Making Life Better for a Baby with Acid Reflux and multiple articles about the cost of caregiving. Learn more about Tracy and what healthy living services and products she can offer on her website. She can also be found on Twitter and Instagram @drinksmoothies.