Halitosis is the medical word that stands for bad breath, coming from the Latin halitus meaning exhale-vapor. In college I heard it put this way: “The Polish Army must have marched through my mouth last night.” Not only is it socially offensive, a foul odor coming from between the lips can also reflect a serious underlying dental or medical problem. Halitosis is the third most common reason people seek out dental care, but studies find different answers reporting that 10 to 75% of those who worry they have bad breath, actually don’t have it. When patients really do exude bad odor, probably the most significant cause for this malodorous condition is dry mouth and coated tongue, often resulting from medicines like decongestants for stuffy nose or pills for urinary incontinence, and a resulting growth of bacteria. Dry mouth can also be due to mouth breathing, advanced aging, or to an immune disease, which affects the salivary glands. No matter the cause, running low on saliva not only will turn the breath foul, but the teeth will then too easily become infected and fall out. Periodontal disease with plaque, and gingivitis causes bacterial infection below the gum line, and can certainly cause the odor of rotting, but so can a bacterial infection in sinuses, lung, pharynx, esophagus, or stomach. It almost goes without saying that smoking or smokeless tobacco also causes doggy breath. Of course garlic and onion give their odor after absorption into your bloodstream, which is carried to the lungs, and then transferred to the breath. Treating halitosis starts by avoiding tobacco habits, avoiding mouth-drying medicines when possible, and stimulating saliva by sucking on sugar-free cough or lemon-drops or gum. Some experts advise that brushing the tongue to remove the “coat” will go a long way to improve one’s breath. Certainly prevention of periodontal disease with flossing, water-picking or special tooth picking is important to reduce odor and tooth decay. Mouthwash or mints will only cover-up garlic and onion breath until time resolves the odor by breaking the chemical down that is being carried in the blood stream. You can escape the plodding Polish Army… Remember that bad breath makes a compelling case for good brushing, good flossing, and when there is that hateful halitosis, for seeking dental and medical care.