"Nearly 50 million Indian adults suffers from halitophobia, an imaginary fear of having bad breath," says Ajay Sharma, senior consultant dental surgeon, prosthodontist and oral Implantologist at Max Healthcare.
Halitosis is the actual disease of bad breath, but mostly, people just have the fear, or halitophobia.
"Only about 25 percent of people who approach with complain of having halitosis actually have the problem," says Sharma, who says 75 percent of his patients who turn up daily with complain of bad breath and live a life of nightmare are having halitophobia, not halitosis.
Such people try to keep away from others, fearing repulsion. This exaggerated fear can lead to isolation and eventually depression. A person suffering from this condition can actually be afraid of talking or breathing around others.
Sharma adds though the disease is diagnosed by dentists, it can be cured by psychiatrists only.
"This reflects on the fact that such a large number of people have this anxiety around teeth. At the same time, understanding the importance of good self presentation is a positive attribute as well," says psychiatrist Samir Parikh, who heads the department of mental health and behavioural sciences at Max Healthcare.
"A dose of counselling is needed to rid them of bad breath phobia," he adds.