Halitosis: what is causing my bad breath?

Written by: Mr Ali Abdellatif
Published: | Updated: 26/10/2023
Edited by: Cameron Gibson-Watt

Halitosis is the medical term for chronic bad breath. It’s the type of bad breath that mints or chewing gum can’t fix alone and it lingers for long periods of time. Usually, this embarrassing condition can be a sign of something else going on in your body that needs to be addressed. Mr Ali Abdellatif, a leading dentist based in St. Albans and London, explains more.


What is the main cause of halitosis?

The main cause of bad breath is gum disease, a very common condition where the gums become swollen, infected or painful because of a build-up of plaque. This build-up is usually caused from not brushing your teeth correctly. The early stage of gum disease is gingivitis, and if it progresses it can develop into periodontitis which affects the tissue that supports the teeth.

Most patients find that they brush their teeth every morning and night but still can’t get rid of the smell. Upon examination, we often discover that they aren’t cleaning critical areas where the bacteria (plaque) is gathering, such as around the wisdom teeth, in between the back teeth and deep under the gum lines.

This accumulation of bacteria attacks the body’s defences and can produce gases that can contribute to bad breath.


Can your diet contribute to bad breath?

Some foods react badly with our digestive system and can cause smelly breath. However, everyone is different and some people find they can eat large quantities of the usual offenders, such as garlic and onions, and not develop bad breath. Others, on the other hand, have just a smidgen of garlic in their food and develop bad breath for days.

Even simple foods like eggs, bread, fruit and pulses can cause digestive problems such as bloating, flatulence and gases from the digestive tract causing us to develop a foul smelling breath.

For patients that complain their bad breath is associated to food, we often advise them to keep a food diary so that we can work together, by use of trial and error, to try to identify what’s creating the problem.


What are some other causes?

A dry mouth is known to cause bad breath. Our saliva rinses and removes unwanted food in the mouth and provides disease-fighting substances to help prevent infections. Not producing enough might be caused by tobacco use, certain medications or excessive caffeine which can result in bad breath.

Systemic or medical conditions can also change the natural body balance and create a state of alkalinity, acidity or ketosis. Some medications create an imbalance in our oral flora - our natural mouth bacteria.

There are times when it can cause abnormal growth of the gums too, which eventually leads to more plaque build-up in the mouth. All of these can then trigger bad breath.


What can a dentist do for me?

A dentist and a hygienist can identify and diagnose the causes of bad breath and help in providing treatments and advice.

The treatment depends on the individual case but it’s important to note that 90% of the work to treat gum disease and bad breath is done by the patient at home.

The main job of the dentist or hygienist is to treat areas that have large accumulations and make it easier for the patient to clean their teeth and mouth at home.

We spend a great deal of time showing and teaching our patients how to clean these problem areas with specifically designed tooth brushes and cleaning tools, such as dental floss. Everyone that comes in is different and has distinct requirements, so each patient requires a tailor-made cleaning program.



If you would like to see Mr Ali Abdellatif about any of the symptoms mentioned, go to his profile and book an appointment to see him at his clinic in St. Albans or on Harley Street, London.

By Mr Ali Abdellatif

Mr Ali Abdellatif is a leading Hertfordshire-based dentist with specialist areas of expertise in dental implants and cosmetic dentistry. He has been practising oral surgery and implantology since 2005, providing all types of dental implants from a single tooth to full restorations. With his expertise in aesthetic dental treatments, he can help patients achieve their dream smile via a variety of procedures such as composite bonding, prosthetics and general restoration.  

After graduating 1998 from the Faculty of Dentistry, Alexandria University in Egypt, Mr Abdellatif received extensive training and experience across Europe. He received training in oral surgery in the UK and also underwent training at Guy's Hospital, King College, where he graduated with his master's degree in implant dentistry in 2007. He also received specialist training in countries including France, Sweden and Germany. There he learnt advanced implantology from highly respected specialists across the continent. 

Mr Abdellatif has been practising for over twenty years, both privately and for the NHS. He is driven to provide the highest quality of care and treatment for his patients.  He is constantly educating himself to ensure his skills and knowledge remain up-to-date. 

He also teaches implant and advanced bone regenerative surgery across the UK, including at the Royal College of Surgeons of England. Mr Abdellatif has memberships at the Association of Dental Implantologists UK and the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow. 

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