Synonyms: Bad breath

Medical Specialties: Dentistry, Family practice

Clinical Definition

Halitosis is a dental health condition characterized by odorous breath. It may occur due to oral pathology, such as poor oral hygiene, dental infections and gum disease. Some systemic diseases, such as renal and kidney disease, may also cause halitosis. In other instances, halitosis is the result of ingestion of certain foods.  

In Our Own Words

Halitosis is the medical term for foul smelling breath, and can have several different causes. Smoking and eating certain types of foods are some well-known culprits of halitosis, but there are several other causes. Bacteria that grow in the mouth can lead to plaque buildup and cause tooth decay or gum disease, both of which may lead to halitosis.


In addition to poor oral hygiene and dental issues, halitosis may sometimes be caused by certain medical conditions. For example, diabetes and liver disease can also lead to bad breath. 

Relevant Conditions
Side Effects
  • Foul smelling breath
  • Bad (bitter) taste in the mouth
Share this article
  • Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. "Halitosis." http://medicalcenter.osu.edu. Accessed October 2013.
  • American Dental Association. "Halitosis." http://www.mouthhealthy.org. Accessed October 2013.
  • The University of Chicago. Bad Breath- "Halitosis." http://pedclerk.bsd.uchicago.edu. Accessed October 2013.
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