Halitology (breath odour: aetiopathogenesis and management)

Oral Dis. 2012 May;18(4):333-45. doi: 10.1111/j.1601-0825.2011.01890.x. Epub 2012 Jan 25.


This article reviews the aetiopathogenesis of halitosis (oral malodour) and management. Halitosis is any disagreeable breath odour. In most patients, the odour originates from the oral cavity. In some patients, it has an extra-oral aetiology and, in a few, metabolic anomalies are responsible. In other patients complaining of malodour, this is imagined rather than real. Volatile sulphur compounds (VSCs) and other elements appear largely responsible for the malodour. Predisposing factors include poor oral hygiene, hyposalivation, dental appliances, gingival and periodontal disease and mucosal disease. The first step in assessment is objective measurement to determine whether malodour is present. If present, the oral or extra-oral origin should be determined, because the latter requires medical investigation and support in therapy, as is also the case where the malodour is imagined rather than real. Oral malodour is managed largely by oral health improvement, plus use of one or more of the wide range of antimalodour therapies, and sometimes also with use of a malodour counteractive. Emergent treatments include probiotics and vaccines targeted against causal micro-organisms or their products.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Disease
  • Halitosis / etiology*
  • Halitosis / microbiology
  • Halitosis / therapy
  • Humans
  • Mouth Diseases / complications
  • Oral Hygiene
  • Risk Factors
  • Sulfur Compounds / metabolism
  • Volatile Organic Compounds / metabolism


  • Sulfur Compounds
  • Volatile Organic Compounds