Do other illnesses affect bad breath (halitosis)?

Bad breath (halitosis) is an unpleasant condition that can be cause for embarrassment. If you don't brush and floss daily, particles of food remain in the mouth, collecting bacteria, which can cause bad breath. Food that collects between the teeth, on the tongue and around the gums can rot, leaving an unpleasant odor. Some people with bad breath aren’t even aware there’s a problem. If you’re concerned about bad breath, see your dentist. He or she can help identify the cause and, if it’s due to an oral condition, develop a treatment plan to help eliminate it.

Although bad breath is not usually serious, it can be an indicator of a medical disorder, such as a local infection in the respiratory tract, chronic sinusitis, postnasal drip, chronic bronchitis, diabetes, gastrointestinal disturbance, liver or kidney ailment. If your dentist determines that your mouth is healthy, you may be referred to your family doctor or a specialist to determine the cause of bad breath.

Bad breath can also be caused by dry mouth (xerostomia), which occurs when the flow of saliva decreases. 
If you think you have constant bad breath, keep a log of the foods you eat and make a list of medications you take. Some medications may play a role in creating mouth odors. Let your dentist know if you've had any surgery or illness since your last appointment.

Brush twice a day with fluoride toothpaste to remove food debris and plaque. Brush your tongue, too. Once a day, use floss to clean between teeth.
Tom Berry
Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery

If no obvious dental causes can be found for bad breath such as poor oral hygiene or periodontal disease, then a consultation with your doctor would be appropriate. Certain medical conditions can contribute to bad breath such as diabetes, kidney disease, or liver disease.

Joan Haizlip, MSN
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
Yes, other medical conditions can cause bad breath. It's important to see your dentist regularly and find out if your halitosis is caused from poor oral hygiene or a dental problem. If none of these are the culprit for the halitosis, then you should get checked by your regular medical doctor. Halitosis can mean that you have an underlying health problem, like diabetes or a lung infection.

The nose is the second most common cause of bad breath. Sinus infections or polyps can cause bad breath, as well as children who insert foreign bodies into the nose. The tonsil may be a cause of bad breath in some people; especially if small tonsillar stones called tonsilloliths are formed and collect on the tongue.

Some other non-dental causes of bad breath include respiratory infections, kidney failure, some cancers, and other disorders. One rare disorder that causes a fishy mouth odor and taste is trimethylaminuria. The stomach and intestines are commonly thought to be a cause of bad breath, but this is not the case. The esophagus is normally closed, preventing odors from the stomach and intestines from reaching the mouth.

Kidney disease, liver failure, and diabetes can cause your breath to have a strange odor. Dry mouth caused by some prescription drugs or smoking, dieting, sinus infections, and lung infections can also cause bad breath.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.