Health: Halitosis to the Mostest

By Larry Espinoza

Today’s Machining World July 2008 Volume 04 Issue 07

We’ve all been there. You are working closely with someone, thoroughly engaged in conversation, and BOOM! You back up, eyes watering, trying desperately not to make the “Oh My God! What did you eat?!?” face. They have bad breath! He obviously doesn’t know. Should you tell? And how can I prevent a similar fate?

Bad breath is usually caused by the presence of oral bacteria. It is the bacteria’s waste that has an effect on the quality of a person’s breath. The variables are dependent on the numbers of oral bacteria, the conditions which promote the growth of bacteria, and the unclean areas where bacteria reside.

Certain foods like garlic and onions cause bad breath, which is annoying but not a chronic problem. Bad breath caused by the consumption of certain foods will resolve on its own in a day or so as your body completes the process of breaking down these foods. Smoker’s breath is directly related to the tar, nicotine, and other foul smelling sub-stances derived from tobacco’s smoke that accumulates on a person’s teeth and oral soft tissues (tongue, cheeks, and gums). There is no effective way to totally eliminate smoker’s breath. (except quit!)

Decreased moisture in the mouth limits the washing and buffering effects of saliva on oral bacteria and their waste products, and helps produce xerostomia, or dry mouth. You have probably noticed that your breath is least pleasant when you first wake up. We inherently reduce salivary flow while we sleep, so a person’s mouth becomes dry. Saliva is the body’s natural mouth rinse. It contains compounds that kill oral bacteria and buffer waste product. The presence of oral fluids encourages us to swallow. Each swallow washes away bacteria, as well as the food and debris on which they feed. When our mouth becomes dry the benefits of oral moisture are reduced. The net result is that the conditions for bacterial growth are enhanced while the neutralization of bacterial waste products is lessened.

Chronic dry mouths can be a side effect of medication. Antihistamines, blood pressure agents, diuretics, antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications can produce a dry mouth. Also, as we age, our salivary glands tend to work less effectively, reducing the effects of salivary cleansing and buffering.

Periodontal disease is the second most common fundamental cause of bad breath. The older we get the more likely that bad breath is related to the health of our gums. Periodontal disease is a bacterial infection located in the tissues that surround a person’s teeth. Advanced forms of periodontal disease typically result in serious damage to the bone that holds the tooth in place. As bone damage occurs, deep spaces form between the tooth and gum (periodontal pockets).

These pockets provide an ideal location for bacteria to live – and it’s the waste from the bacteria that makes the smell. Often these pockets are so deep a person cannot effectively cleanse them.

Sinus conditions also have an effect on a person’s breath. Upper respiratory infections and allergies promote the flow of postnasal drip onto the back portion of a person’s tongue. This discharge has a foul taste and smell. Oral bacteria will feed on this discharge and add their own smelly waste products. As a compounding factor, people with sinus conditions will often have stuffed up noses and breathe through their mouths. The drying effect of mouth breathing creates an environment that promotes bad breath. If a sinus sufferer takes antihistamines, it also adds to mouth dryness.

Fighting chronic bad breath has gone mainstream. Wrigley completed a study adding various compounds to their sugar free gums and found that adding magnolia bark kills 99 percent of the odor causing bacteria. The Chinese have used this natural remedy for years. Even the American Dental Association gave their stamp of approval. It seems that gum chewing with the bark strengthens teeth by augmenting enamel remineralization, decreases plaque acids by increasing the level of salivary buffers, and helps to prevent cavities by stimulating salivary flow.

But gum is only a temporary fix; you need to identify what is causing the growth of bacteria. Certain medical conditions that cause mouth dryness or an active infection in a person’s sinuses or mouth can cause bad breath. If a person’s bad breath persists, a consultation with a medical doctor is indicated.

And yes, you should tell!

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