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Halitosis (Bad Breath)

Halitosis affects everyone at some point. It usually causes embarrassment in social situations, although for many people they have no idea that they have bad breath until someone tells them. There are many causes of the problem and they each create a different odor. Some cases are easy to cure, and others are symptoms of more serious underlying conditions.


The main symptom of halitosis is bad breath. Secondary symptoms may include a film on the tongue, sour taste, metallic taste, post nasal drip, and dry mouth. Sometimes the ailment becomes a symptom of something more serious. If a person's breath smells fruity, it may be because the body is having a problem with excess acetone. This may be a symptom of diabetes. If the breath smells like fecal matter, it may be due to prolonged vomiting or having a nasogastric tube in place. If the breath smells like ammonia or fishy, it may be a sign of chronic kidney failure.


Common causes of halitosis include food or beverages that have recently been eaten, large doses of vitamins, poor dental hygiene, dentures, cavities, smoking, alcoholism, menstruation, blood disorders, cancer, gall bladder disorders, sinusitis, seasonal allergies, tonsillitis, a throat or lung infection, gum disease, an abscessed or impacted tooth, or medications. In most cases like these, the odor comes from the upper digestive system, including the teeth, gums, mouth, esophagus and stomach. At other times, the odor may begin in the respiratory tract.


If your bad breath persists or has an odor like some of those described above, see your doctor for a diagnosis.

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