January 19, 2018

Scent is one of the five senses we use every day, and it plays a significant role in the way that we see and interact with the world around us.

Think about it: how many times do you walk in to your favourite coffee shop and immediately feel comforted by the smell of freshly ground coffee, or sugary baked goods in the oven?

However, for every comforting scent there is in the world, there are also those scents that we just can’t seem to get rid of, such as bad breath and body odour. Bad breath can become a barrier between yourself and the rest of the world.

Halitosis: How it Happens

Halitosis, the medical term for bad breath, can happen for a number of reasons.

While many are quick to blame poor oral hygiene for halitosis, it’s not always the cause. Just because someone is experiencing bad breath doesn’t mean they don’t brush their teeth.

Other causes of halitosis could include:

  • Dry mouth (xerostomia): saliva naturally helps to eliminate odors in your mouth, so when you’re low on it, you experience bad breath.
  • Smoking: if you smoke, your breath often smells like cigarettes, which is a big turn-off for many. However, smoking can also lead to gum disease and oral health issues, so it’s double trouble for your breath.
  • Potent foods: garlic, we’re looking at you.
  • Diseases: acid reflux, some types of cancer, and certain metabolic diseases are all potential culprits for your bad breath.
  • Infections: sometimes, after surgery or when you experience a wound in your mouth, bad breath could be an unfortunate setback.

The Social Curse of Bad Breath

For centuries, people have been studying cures for bad breath, from herb-based concoctions in Ancient Egypt to the cardamom and licorice described in Chaucer’s classicThe Canterbury Tales.

It’s clear that bad breath has been limiting for social relationships since the dawn of time, but why is it so impactful?

When you open your mouth and speak to people and a foul odor emerges, they will not want to talk to you for very long. In fact, this can often result in negative body language as your audience recoils from you or finds a way to get you to stop talking.

It’s a Hit to Your Well-Being

People who experience halitosis often experience self-consciousness or poor self-esteem, which can limit the way that they interact in social situations and connect with their peers. For example, you may become afraid to approach others due to your insecurities.

In a study conducted in association with the Breath Odour Clinic, 75% of the patients being treated for halitosis were there because they were experiencing low self-esteem and insecurity.

If you’re self-conscious about your bad breath, you may begin to find it easier to avoid social situations altogether. This could lead to feelings of alienation, depression, loneliness, or anxiety.

...And It Doesn’t Just Stop at Your Social Circles

In addition to self-consciousness when it comes to social situations, halitosis could also affect your career. For example, imagine yourself sitting in a job interview and noticing that your interviewer has become alert to a certain odour on your end. It’s not exactly the boost you were looking for.

If your interviewer notices your bad breath, they may get the impression that you do not maintain good oral hygiene. You might have a perfect resume, but if you don’t nail the first impression, you may be overlooked.

Finding a Solution

Luckily, there are many remedies out there that could help curb your unpleasant breath. Gum and mints are a band-aid solution, but if you really want to make a difference, it’s time to think about what you eat and drink, and how your choices could impact your oral health.


Handwerk, B. (Feb. 2017). The history and science behind your terrible breath.Smithsonian Magazine.Retrieved from https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/halitosis-horrors-how-bad-breath-became-americas-worst-nightmare-180962104/.

Mayo Clinic. (n.d.). Bad breath. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/bad-breath/symptoms-causes/syc-20350922.

McKeown, L. (2003).Social relations and breath odour. International Journal of Dental Hygeine, 1(4), pp.213-217. Doi: https://doi.org/10.1034/j.1601-5037.2003.00056.x.

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