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Alternative NamesBad breath; Halitosis
Definition Return to top
Breath odor is the scent of the air you breathe out of your mouth. Unpleasant, distinctive, or offensive breath odor is commonly called bad breath.
Considerations Return to top
Some disorders will produce specific, characteristic odors to the breath.
A fruity odor to the breath occurs as the body attempts to get rid of excess acetone through the breathing. This is a sign of ketoacidosis, which may occur in diabetes. It is a potentially life-threatening condition.
Breath that smells like feces can occur with prolonged vomiting, especially when there is a bowel obstruction. It may also occur temporarily if a person has a tube placed through the nose or mouth to the stomach to drain the stomach contents (nasogastric tube) in place.
The breath may have an ammonia-like odor (also described as urine-like or "fishy") in people with chronic kidney failure.
Causes Return to top
If previously normal breath turns into halitosis, causes could include:
Home Care Return to top
Use proper dental hygiene (especially flossing), and remember that mouthwashes are not effective in treating the underlying problem.
Fresh parsley or a strong mint are often effective ways to fight temporary bad breath. Avoid smoking. Otherwise, follow prescribed therapy to treat the underlying cause.
When to Contact a Medical Professional Return to top
What to Expect at Your Office Visit Return to top
Your doctor will take a medical history and perform a physical examination.
You may be asked the following medical history questions:
The physical examination will include a thorough examination of the mouth and the nose. A throat culture may be taken if you have a sore throat or mouth sores.
In rare cases, diagnostic tests that may be performed include:
Antibiotics may be prescribed for some conditions. For an object in the nose, the doctor will use an instrument to remove it.Update Date: 4/24/2008 Updated by: Michael Kapner, D.D.S., General and Cosmetic Dentistry, New Rochelle, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, M.D., MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.