Concerns about bad breath (also known as halitosis) are a common concern, resulting in a thriving market for breath fresheners such as chewing gum and mints. However, it is not always easy to tell whether you have it or not. While many people may genuinely have bad breath, there are some who have an irrational fear of halitosis, a psychological conditional called halitophobia. These patients may fear bad breath to the point of obsession, and this can have a big impact on their social wellbeing.

Fascinating Facts

  • Many chemicals cause the smell in bad breath including hydrogen sulphide, methyl mercaptan and putrescine.
  • Case studies have reported that garlic rubbed in the soles of the feet can be detected later in the breath.
  • Men clean their teeth less often – one third (33%) only brush their teeth once a day, compared to around a quarter (26%) of women. Men are also less likely to floss than women (25% vs. 36%)
  • It is likely that many of those living in 16th-century Britain would have suffered with bad breath as a result of poor health and dental care.
  • Shakespeare mentions breath smell – sweet or stinking – more than 100 times. In his day, most people had bad breath (Professor M Rosenberg)


First published on:
Reviewed and edited by: Dr Anna Cantlay
Last updated: October 2020

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