Social relations and breath odour

Int J Dent Hyg. 2003 Nov;1(4):213-7. doi: 10.1034/j.1601-5037.2003.00056.x.


In this retrospective qualitative study, the researcher reviewed 55 client records of The Breath Odour Clinic. The purpose was to determine if individuals attended a clinic specialised in treating oral malodour for medical or social reasons. The study focused on the psychosocial and breath odour history. Clients had agreed to the use of information for research purposes. Society uses odour as a means to define and interact with the world. The olfactory, smelling experience is intimate, emotionally charged and connects us with the world. It follows that the smell from mouth breath odour can connect or disconnect a person from their social environment and intimate relationships. How one experiences one's own body is very personal and private but also very public. Breath odour is public as it occurs within a social and cultural context and personal as it affects one's body image and self-confidence. Body image, self-image and social relations mesh, interact and impact upon each other. Breath odour is a dynamic and interactive aspect of the self-image. In addition, breath odour may be value-coded as 'bad'. In 75% of the cases reviewed, decreased self-confidence and insecurity in social and intimate relations led clients to seek treatment at the specialised breath odour clinic. Their doctor, dental hygienist or dentist had treated medical and oral conditions but not resolved their breath odour problem. When a person perceives a constant bad breath problem, she/he uses defence techniques, and may avoid social situations and social relations. This affects a person's well-being.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Attitude to Health
  • Body Image
  • Child
  • Defense Mechanisms
  • Female
  • Halitosis / psychology*
  • Halitosis / therapy
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Self Concept
  • Social Environment