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The aim of this study was to compare patients' self-rating of oral malodour with organoleptic evaluation and to relate them to oral conditions.One hundred and eighty systemically healthy patients with a primary complaint of oral malodour participated in this cross-sectional study. They were asked to complete a questionnaire regarding family and social discomfort and type of halitosis complaint, and to score the degree of their own oral malodour. The quality of the mouth air was assessed organoleptically by a calibrated odour judge. Odour-judge scores and self-assessments of bad breath were compared with one another as well as with clinical parameters (plaque index, bleeding index, probing depth and tongue coating score).The organoleptic test revealed that 93.9% of the subjects were found actually to have halitosis. The self-rating of oral malodour varied widely among patients. In 37.8% of patients, there was a correspondence between subjective and organoleptic measurements. The better correspondence was evident at 2–3 scores. The organoleptic ratings were significantly related to clinical parameters, whereas patients' self-measurements did not. The bleeding index had the highest correlation coefficient among the periodontal parameters examined (r = 0.665, P < 0.001).Self-estimation of bad breath correlated well with the presence of oral malodour as determined by organoleptic examination. Patients with slight or moderate oral halitosis presented the highest correlation rate between self- and odour-judge assessment.