Bad Breath (Halitosis)
The reason we can't smell our own bad breath is because the source of our breath is in the soft palate at the back of the mouth which is connected to the nose. The nose blocks out most background smells including the odour in the mouth commonly refered to as bad breath.
According to the British Dental Health Foundation "one in four adults suffer from bad breath on a regular basis". But without somebody actually telling you your breath smells bad how are you supposed to know? Characteristics of bad breath are:
- A white tongue
- Thick saliva
- A dry mouth
- A constant sour, bitter or metallic taste in the mouth
- A bad taste after drinking beer, milk, coffee or mouthwash.
These are all likely signs your breath smells but bad breath can still occur without any of these characteristics being present. Your dentist can measure bad breath with a Halimeter, an instrument that detects the levels of volatile sulfur compounds when you breathe into the tube attached.
The main cause of bad breath is oral bacteria. The waste that the bacteria in our mouths create are full of sulfur compounds which smell. The many different compounds produced by the bacteria are referred to as Volatile Sulfur Compounds - VSCs, the fact that they are volatile, meaning they evaporate quickly even at room temperature is why other people can smell them.
The majority of sulfur compounds that produce bad breath are...
- Hydrogen Sulfide - the smell of rotten eggs.
- Methyl Mercaptan - the smell associated with farms and feed lots.
- Skatole - the smell of human faeces.
- Putrescine - contributes to the smell of decaying meat.
- Cadervine - the smell associated with corpses.
These compounds are the waste of "anaerobic" bacteria which means they thrive in an environment which lacks oxygen. So contray to common belief these bacteria do not live on the direct surface of the tongue but inbetween the fibres of the tongue. They also thrive under the coating at the back of the tongue, known as "white tongue". Bad breath bacteria particularly like this area as it is completely deprived of oxygen. They can also survive in between teeth and underneath the gumline.
Prevention/Treatment of bad breath:
- Brush with Biotene Fluoride Toothpaste and Floss thoroughly at least twice a day but prefferably after every meal or snack particularly meals high in protein as the oral bacteria digest protein and then excrete it in the form of volatile sulfar compounds.
- Use a tongue scraper - gently scrape as far back as you can, the aim is to remove the white coating as well as any bacteria or food debris on the tongue.
- Chew sugarless gum - chewing gum increases saliva which contains oxygen, which the anaerobic bacteria dislike. Saliva actually dissolves those volatile sulfur compounds.
- Drink water - again this increases the saliva and washes away any food particles in the mouth.
- Use a Chlorine Dioxide or Sodium Chlorite mouthwash - These both release oxygen in the mouth which the anaerobic bacteria don't like and they neutralise volatile sulfuric compounds eliminating bad breath.
Copyright 2005 Whiter Than White Teeth Whitening