Halitosis

Halitosis is the medical term for which affliction?

And the answer: bad breath.

Photo credit: Helotesfamilydentistry.com.

Halitosis often isn't serious, and can result from mild dehydration or eating certain foods like garlic or onions. However, if it lingers, it can be a sign of something more serious.  

Dragon breath, toilet tongue, maggot mouth, and even yuck mouth are all creative terms used to refer to the same thing: bad breath, or halitosis. Most often, the affliction comes after a big meal full or garlic, or the morning after you've forgotten to brush your teeth. The human mouth is actually a hotspot for the bacteria that cause bad breath, which can occur in even the most diligent of teeth-brushers.

Interestingly, people have been trying to make their breath less stinky for millennia. The Egyptians, for example, made an early form of a breath mint almost 3,000 years ago. They mixed up batches of boiled herbs and spices and blended them with honey to make sweets that could be chewed or sucked on. Meanwhile, the Chinese are credited with creating the first toothbrush – made from boar bristles – in the 1400s.

However, it wasn't until Listerine capitalized the market for their antiseptic that the term "halitosis" was formalized as a medical condition. During the 1920s, Gerald Lambert, the son of the owner of Lambert Pharmaceutical Company, came across the word in an old medical journal. Halitosis is an old Latin word meaning, "bad breath," but because of its scientific-sounding name, people started to pay attention. It was framed as a medical condition that required treatment and, of course, the prescription was Listerine mouthwash.

Learn more about the affliction and its causes below.


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