Believe it or not, Americans spend more than $1 billion a year to fight bad breath. Unfortunately, over the counter treatments like toothpaste and mouthwash only mask the odor.
So what causes bad breath?
Chronic bad breath (halitosis) does not originate in the stomach. In most cases bad breath is caused by leftover food that collects bacteria on the teeth, surface of the tongue, below the gum line, between the teeth and other hard to reach areas. Naturally occurring anaerobic bacteria feed on this oral debris and produce foul-smelling volatile sulfur compounds (VSC) as a by-product.
While everyone has some level of VSC in their mouth, they cannot be detected by the nose at low levels. Saliva plays a key role in fighting chronic halitosis by flushing away debris. The dryer your mouth and the thicker your saliva, the less rinsing that takes place. Lower oxygen levels create environment in which the bacteria that produce sulfur compounds thrive.
Other major contributors to bad breath can include
- oral stagnation from mouth breathing and/or snoring
- alcohols that dry oral tissue
- medications for high blood pressure, depression, and antihistamines
- general dehydration
- proteins, acidic foods, and dairy products
- genetics that determine the shape of your tongue
Fighting Bad Breath
Regular professional cleanings in conjunction with daily brushing and flossing normally take care of unpleasant breath. If bad breath persists, make extra effort to remove bacteria that accumulates in the cracks and crevices of your tongue.
Use a metal or plastic tongue scraper to gently scrape from the back of the tongue to the front or wrap a soft cotton washcloth around a finger and gently wipe from the back to the tip. Be sure to clean the back of your tongue where the most bacteria accumulates.
If bad breath continues, consider altering your diet or medications. Note that sudden bad breath can also be a sign that you have a health problem, such as a respiratory tract infection, chronic sinusitis, or postnasal drip.
If you suffer from chronic halitosis, you are not alone — over forty-million Americans have persistent bad breath. Regular professional cleanings combined with a robust daily oral care routine should significantly ease the burden.