Halitosis – “Bad Breath”

Mar 17
2010

Word of Mouth
Halitosis – “Bad Breath”
By Dr. Wade Newman D.D.S.

Halitosis, or bad breath, has affected everyone at some point. Maybe you were the victim in a conversation with someone who had bad breath, or maybe you’re the offender. In either case, this article will discuss the causes of bad breath and answer some of the most frequently asked questions associated with halitosis.

Did you know that more than 170 different types of bacteria flourish in our mouth? These bacteria feed on bits of decaying food particles left on teeth and the tongue after meals. When the bacteria devour these “leftovers” they produce volatile sulfur compounds, which are what make breath smell foul.

Many of these bacteria are anaerobic which means they cannot live in the presence of oxygen. Although our mouth is exposed to oxygen every time we breathe, these bacteria hide in places where oxygen cannot reach – in the deep ridges and valleys on the back of the tongue and the space between the teeth and gums.

This is why scraping away the germs that generate the foul smells and other decaying oral debris from the tongue is crucial to eliminating bad breath, but also gum disease, dental decay, plaque, sore throats and colds.

Does bad breath come from the stomach?
The answer is no. After eating, the muscles at the top of the stomach close over stopping any leakage of stomach contents. If ever there is leakage you would smell a burp, which definitely is different than bad breath. Another outcome of such a leakage is indigestion.
Can bacteria from the gums or gum disease cause bad breath?
Not likely. A more likely scenario is that the bacteria on the tongue not only causes the bad breath problem, but is also supplying food sources to the bacteria in the gums. Therefore a coated tongue could be making your gum disease worse.
Is cleaning the teeth necessary in reducing bad breath?
Yes. Cleaning the teeth removes plaque buildup on the teeth and gums. Plaque not only contains bacteria that can be a problem, but sugars and acids that can cause decay. Professional cleanings at least twice a year is recommended.
Does bad breath come from the sinuses?
No it does not, the anaerobic sulphur-producing bacteria that create bad breath live and breed within the back of the tongue and in the throat. These bacteria have the ability to digest mucous from the sinus (because of high protein content) and then break the mucous down into Sulphide molecules, which cause the bad breath and bitter, sour taste.
I brush regularly. Isn’t that enough to get rid of my bad breath?
Ordinary brushing fails to entirely dislodge the plaque and mucus. The toothbrush is designed specifically to remove plaque from teeth. It is not designed to clean the tongue effectively. Brushing the teeth only reduces mouth odor by 25%. If you tried to clean the back of your tongue with a toothbrush, you would find it ineffective and potentially painful. In fact, recent studies have shown an effectiveness of 20-30% bacteria removal with a toothbrush compared to nearly 90% bacteria removal with a tongue scraper.
How effective are mouthwashes, sprays, internal capsules and breath mints?
Mouthwashes, sprays, internal capsules and regular mint candies are considered to be ineffective in combating bad breath. They just temporarily mask the odor. Recent studies have shown that mouthwashes only temporarily mask the foul odor of bad breath for as little as 10 minutes after brushing. In fact, mouthwashes with alcohol can make the situation even worse by drying out the mouth. Don’t be fooled by the burning sensation – it is your own cells in pain, not the wounded bacteria screaming in agony.
Does chewing gum help?
It helps a little. Chewing gum helps combat bad breath due to the effect of salivation, combined with the cleansing effect of the piece of gum rolling around the teeth. A very important fact to remember when battling bad breath is that saliva is our friend. Saliva washes away bacteria and dissolves the foul smelling sulfur compounds. Chewing gum has its downsides however. Firstly, it can’t effectively eliminate the odor generating germs, decaying food particles and other oral debris from the ridges and valleys on the back of the tongue. Secondly, and more importantly, excessive chewing can wreak havoc with the joint connecting your jaw to your head (TMJ).
No matter how often I brush, floss, use mouthwash, or avoid problem foods, halitosis (bad breath) persists all day and every day, what should I do?
Dental research indicates that tongue cleaning with an effective tongue scraper along with your regular brushing and flossing reduces bad breath by more than 90%. Scrape away harmful bacteria, the coating of white plaque and decaying food particles from the valleys and ridges on the back of the tongue for a fresher, cleaner and healthier mouth. Regular professional cleanings and dental exams are also crucial in combating halitosis.

If you are like the millions of hygienically conscious consumers throughout the world that are concerned about oral health and fresh breath, you need three things in your personal oral hygiene arsenal. First is a soft bristle toothbrush, second is dental floss and lastly is a high quality tongue scraper. These three items are inexpensive, easy to use and essential to your overall oral health.

Dr. Newman is a family dental practitioner in Bellefonte and is accepting new patients. You may contact Dr. Newman at his office: Bellefonte Family Dentistry, 114 South School St. Bellefonte PA 16823, 814-355-1587 or visit www.bellefontedental.com

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