What is halitophobia, the condition that causes some people to brush their teeth constantly

What is halitophobia, the condition that causes some people to brush their teeth constantly


For Alix Taylor the idea of going to work without her toothbrush and toothpaste was unimaginable.

In fact, he spent a good part of his working day in the bathroom.

” I used to brush my teeth about 10 times a day, I also chewed gum all day because I was sure I had bad breath,” she says.

“I hated being in the elevators with other people … I did not want to be near anyone, I was really paranoid.”

What Alix felt, several people suffer and most of the time they do it in absolute silence and alone.

Sarah Ebner picked up the testimony of Alix in the article ” Take my breath away ” ( ” Take my breath away “), published in 2001, in the British newspaper The Guardian .

Your case reflects a condition that is known as halitophobia.


The medical explanation

Woman covering her mouth
Copyright of the image ISTOCK / GETTY IMAGES

Some people are convinced that they have bad breath when they do not have it. This psychological condition is called halitophobia.

People with halitophobia are paranoid about the smell of their breath. They often misinterpret the behavior and comments of other people, thinking that they are suggesting they have bad breath.

They become obsessed with cleaning their teeth , chewing gum and using mouthwashes.

NHS, National Health Service of the United Kingdom


From the doctor’s perspective

Many people who complain persistently of having bad breath have gone through not only the dentist but by different specialists who have checked their throats, their lungs and their stomachs.

A dentist with his patient
Copyright of the image ISTOCK / GETTY IMAGES
Image caption Some patients undergo check-ups of various types to determine the source of their bad breath.

The dilemma that many GPs face is: what to tell them when no abnormality has been detected and when they themselves have found that the patient does not have bad breath?

“We must be very careful how you tell because often these people come with a problem they feel is real , ” said the health program of the BBC Inside Health , Tim Hodgson, specialist in oral medicine Dental Hospital Eastman in England.

Perhaps – the expert said – in the past they had bad breath or halitosis, but not anymore.

“After that they are left with this perception that they still have halitosis even when they have already corrected the cause, ” says Hodgson.

They often come up with a very well-constructed idea in which they believe that people on the bus or in the subway are moving away from them. “

Tim Hodgson, Eastman Dental Hospital

And many times their relatives, friends and relatives – who in the past made them notice their bad breath – reaffirm that the unpleasant smell disappeared, but that does not convince them.

“They often come up with a very well-constructed idea in which they believe that people on the bus or subway move away from them , cover their faces or decide not to speak directly to them because they feel they have bad breath,” he explains.

“And they see themselves in a situation where they perceive that people are avoiding them because of bad breath.”

A belief

Little by little, these perceptions reinforce the idea that formed in their heads.

A man with a mouthwash
Copyright of the image ISTOCK / GETTY IMAGES
Image caption Once the cause of bad breath has been eradicated, people with halitophobia may believe they continue to suffer from it.

According to the doctor, many of the patients referred to him with “halitosis do not have halitosis”.

Hodgson says there are patients who believe him when he tells them they do not have bad breath. Others simply do not .

“Even if halitosis goes away, some patients may still feel very anxious about the problem and keep the focus on potential symptoms ,” explained clinical psychologist Claire Daniel of Eastman Dental Hospital.

“And they are very predisposed when it comes to seeing and listening to information, they focus on the negative to reinforce what they believe and ignore the other information that can be very helpful because they support a more realistic way of addressing their situation.”

Many of them can accept in the consultation that day they do not have bad breath, but they assure that “yesterday they did have it” and they are sure that tomorrow they will have it.

According to the clinical psychologist, the reaffirmations that the medical staff give these people have a very short life: they leave the office thinking they do not have bad breath, but when they return to their homes, their belief system is reactivated and anxiety returns.

Cognitive behavioral therapy

Daniel points out that one of his strategies is to work on the cognitive behavioral part of patients to know what they think, what they feel, what they do and how they interact.

Woman pressing the elevator button
Copyright of the image ISTOCK / GETTY IMAGES
Image caption People with halitophobia avoid being in places where they must be very close to others.

“It is very complex, in general, in cognitive behavioral therapy for anxiety about health, we do not propose to tell people that it is wrong , we intend to help people understand what is happening,” he says.

” We help them have a broader perspective of their situation.”

And is that according to the expert, anxiety about health is often a matter that lasts a lifetime. “It’s about helping them live with uncertainty and with a certain level of anxiety about their condition.”

If you think you suffer from halitophobia Acud and edical , who will advise you in the best way.


Causes of halitosis

  • Persistent bad breath can sometimes be a sign of periodontal disease .
  • Eating foods with strong flavors, such as onions and garlic, as well as smoking and drinking alcohol can also cause it.
  • Occasionally, it may occur after an infection or illness or as a result of taking certain types of drugs.
  • Strict diets, low carbohydrates, and fasting are another possible cause of bad breath, because these regimes “cause the body to break down the fat that produces chemicals called ketones, which can be smelled on the breath.”
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Rava Desk

Rava is an online news portal providing recent news, editorials, opinions and advice on day to day happenings in Pakistan.


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