Your Fight Against Bad Breath
Bad breath, commonly referred to as
halitosis, usually originates from one of two sources -
certain foods we eat or the
breakdown of food particles by bacteria which
inhabit the mouth.
The Foods We Eat - The Cause of Temporary
We have all probably experienced bad
breath caused by eating certain foods. We eat a meal and then
suffer with embarrassing bad breath later. The culprits are
sulfur compounds found in certain foods like garlic and
cabbage. These sulfur compounds cause breathe to smell
When we eat, sulfur compounds from foods
are absorbed by our digestive systems. Contrary to popular
belief, sulfur compounds do not cause bad breath as a result of
working their way back up into the mouth from the
Rather, the sulfur compounds move from
the digestive system into the bloodstream where they are
carried to the lungs. Here the lungs expel the sulfur compounds
from the body by way of the air that we exhale! Amazingly, many
of these sulfur compounds are also excreted in sweat from the
skin and in urine for hours to even days after the food
containing them is eaten.
How can you get rid of this type of bad
breath? One option is to avoid the foods that cause bad breath
such as cabbage and onions. Alternatively, you can use one of
several new products on the market which attack and neutralize
the sulfur compounds while they are in the digestive system or
in the bloodstream. Bacteria - The Cause of
Chronic Bad Breath
Chronic bad breath is constant long
standing bad breath. Although a little harder to treat, it can
be treated nevertheless. The problem starts with bacteria. Did
you know that over 170 different types of bacteria live in our
These bacteria feed on bits of food left
on our teeth after meals. Feasting on these "leftovers,"
bacteria produce sulfur compounds (Volatile Sulfur Compounds
-VSCs) which once again give breath its foul smell.
Many of these bacteria are anaerobic
meaning that they can not live in the presence of oxygen. How
do they live in the mouth which is exposed to oxygen every time
we breathe? These bacteria hide in places where oxygen can not
reach - under plaque and food debris, in the spaces between the
teeth and gums, and in the deep crevices of the
This is why proper dental care is
important in eliminating bad breath. Brushing and flossing
How Can You Tell If You Have Bad Breath ?
- Remove bacteria from the mouth.
- Remove the layer of plaque, food debris, and dead cells
which protect bacteria from oxygen.
- Remove the left-over microscopic food particles which
bacteria use to create the odorous sulfur particles.
Contrary to popular belief, you can not
tell by yourself whether or not you have bad breath. Many
people try cupping their hands to their nose to smell exhaled
air. Others may try licking and then smelling their
Unfortunately, these simply do not work.
First, the body becomes accustomed to its own odors. As a
result, it becomes hard for you to objectively distinguish
whether or not your breath odor is foul or not. Secondly, much
of the foul breath is created at the back of the mouth and is
expelled outward only when we talk.
How then do you tell if your breath
offends? Many dentists measure breath odor using an instrument
called a halimeter. The patient blows into a straw like
tube connected to the halimeter and the machine detects the
levels of volatile sulfur compounds in the breath. The more
volatile sulfur compounds measured by the machine the worst the
If you do not want to use a halimeter the next best way to
detect bad breath is to simply ask a trusted friend to tell you
whether or not your breath is offensive.
The Tongue - Safe Haven for Bacteria
A major advancement in the treatment of
bad breath has been the finding that bacteria
which causes bad breath can reside on the tongue - especially
the back of the tongue! In fact, as much as 50% of the
bacteria within the mouth can be found here. For bacteria the
tongue is a lush velvet carpet in which they can escape the
wrath of the toothbrush and dental floss.
In many countries it has long been a
practice to use a device called a tongue cleaner (also commonly
called a tongue scraper) to gently clean the tongue, but the
importance of this procedure is just being felt here in the
During each brushing you should remove
bacteria from your tongue with one of several commercially
available tongue cleaners. What you will scrape off with the
tongue cleaner is a whitish layer of bacteria, plaque, and food
debris. This simple procedure can greatly improve the condition
of your breath.
Saliva - Nature's Mouthwash
A very important fact to remember
when battling bad breath is that saliva is our friend. A
dry mouth represents the perfect environment for odor causing
bacteria. Saliva acts as nature's mouthwash by keeping the
mouth moist, washing away bacteria, and dissolving foul
smelling volatile sulfur compounds.
reduce saliva flow or which make our mouth dry can therefore
lead to bad breath. In fact, the morning breath which
many people experience after a long night of sleep is caused by
the reduction in saliva flow that occurs when we
Dieting, fasting, or talking for long
periods of time reduce saliva flow and contribute to bad
breath. In addition, certain medications, alcohol consumption,
and breathing through the nose during exercise cause dry mouth
contributing to the problem.
How do you make sure your saliva flow is
adequate and that your mouth stays moist? Drink water. Saliva
flow increases when we eat or drink. If you are dieting or
fasting, drinking water is a good way to stimulate the flow of
saliva. The water will also help wash away food and
Placing a drop of lemon juice on the tip
of your tongue or chewing sugarless gum are also effective ways
to stimulate saliva flow. It is a commonly held notion in the
medical community that mints and breath freshening gums work
not by masking odor but by stimulating saliva flow.
The Truth About Over-the-Counter
People often combat chronic bad breath
using mouthwash as their weapon of choice. Ironically, most
commercial mouthwashes are useless in eliminating chronic bad
Recent studies have reported that
mouthwashes only temporarily mask the odor of bad breath for as
little as 10 minutes after brushing. In fact, because they
contain alcohol, mouthwashes can actually make the situation
worse by drying out the mouth creating a more hospitable
environment for odor causing bacteria.
A new breed of mouthwashes containing chlorine dioxide,
however, have proven very effective in combating bad breath.
These mouthwashes do not mask bad breath odor like conventional
mouth washes, instead the chlorine dioxide in these rinses
directly attacks the volatile sulfur compounds responsible for
The nose can contribute to bad breath.
Thick mucus discharge resulting from colds, allergies,
medications, pregnancy or hormonal changes can collect on the
back of the tongue. This layer of mucus provides a protective
blanket under which bacteria hide. Bacteria can also break down
proteins in the mucus to create volatile sulfur
Sometimes mucus, bacteria, and debris
condense onto the surface of the tonsils forming small hard
balls of material. Known as tonsilloliths, these odorous balls
of material are sometimes coughed up.
Using an over-the-counter nasal spray
helps thin out post-nasal drip making it less useful to odor
causing bacteria. Drinking water may also make mucus less
viscous and therefore less likely to collect on the back of the
Periodontal Disease - A Treatable Cause of
If you try:
- Staying away from certain foods
that are known to cause bad breath,
- Removing bacteria and food
particles by brushing your teeth and flossing,
- Removing bacteria from the
- Making sure that your mouth does
not become too dry (maintaining saliva flow),
and still have bad breath, you may want to see your dentist.
This is because anaerobic bacteria in your mouth may have found
special places to hide. Normally there is a small 1-3 mm space
between your gums and teeth. This is known as the periodontal
pocket or pocket for short. When pockets get to be 5mm or more
they create deeper and more secluded hiding places for
Your dentist should be able to detect these periodontal
pockets during a routine gum exam. These areas are difficult to
keep clean and may create a continuous supply of sulfur gases.
The more areas that you have harboring these bacteria, the
worse the breath.
What creates these widened pockets which harbor bacteria?
These deep pockets often result from the breakdown of the gums
If you have persistent bad breath, you should definitely see
your dentist to find out if you have periodontal disease. Other
symptoms of periodontal disease include:
- Swollen or bleeding gums
- Tender gums
- Loosening and shifting teeth
- Sensitive teeth
- Pain upon chewing
If you have periodontal disease, your dentist can help you
treat it and consequently treat the bad breath associated with