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What's Causing Your Halitosis?

If you suffer from bad breath, you are not alone. As many as 50 percent of Americans claim to suffer from halitosis. Nevertheless, bad breath can be eliminated if its causes are properly identified and addressed. Here are some of the reasons for bad breath.

Volatile Sulfur Compounds

Volatile sulfur compounds (VSCs) are smelly, sulfur-based chemicals that give your breath a stale odor. Released by the anaerobic bacteria of the oral cavity, VSCs are present in every person's mouth. Their smell becomes increasingly noticeable in your breath as the concentration of the compounds rises.

Here are some of the volatile sulfur compounds that can plague your breath:
  • Methyl mercaptan. Methyl mercaptan causes the rotten cabbage smell that you may notice around the feces of livestock.
  • Hydrogen sulfide. Hydrogen sulfide has an odor that is reminiscent of rotten eggs. 
  • Dimethyl sulfide. Dimethyl sulfide has a disagreeable odor that you may associate with ocean water. 
Among the volatile sulfur compounds that may be present in your breath, dimethyl sulfide and hydrogen sulfide are the most prevalent. They account for about 90 percent of the odor-causing VSCs in the air that you exhale.

Nevertheless, volatile sulfur compounds decrease in your mouth as the bacteria within your oral cavity are eliminated. Large numbers of odor-causing anaerobic bacteria can be found on the surface of your tongue. The microbes form a sticky biofilm that may appear white. 

To remove the bacteria from the tongue, you should use a tongue scraper. The small U-shaped tool safely scrapes the biofilm from the grooved lingual surface. Tongue-scraping should be performed regularly in conjunction with brushing and flossing. 

You can also help eliminate the bacteria in your mouth by using an antibacterial mouth rinse. Antimicrobial agents that may be present in the mouthwash, such as chlorhexidine, can kill odor-causing bacteria, minimizing the numbers in your oral cavity.

Sulfur-Containing Foods

Some foods, such as garlic, onions, and fish, contain sulfur compounds. As a result, they can negatively impact the smell of your breath. 

Garlic, which includes a sulfur compound called allyl methyl sulfide, can even affect the smell of your breath for days after you have consumed it. The smell lingers because the compound resurfaces in the mouth long after you have eaten.

Allyl methyl sulfide is not metabolized by the mouth, liver, or intestines. Thus, it can be emitted through your breath as it circulates through your blood stream. 

Brushing and flossing can help rid your mouth of leftover particles of odor-causing foods. However, the ingestion of neutralizing items, such as apples, green tea, or lemon juice, can help eliminate some of the odor-causing chemicals. 

Dry Mouth

Certain oral health conditions, such as xerostomia, which is commonly called dry mouth, can also affect your breath. Dry mouth occurs when there is too little saliva in the oral cavity.

Saliva has multiple functions, including the hydration of the mouth, the rinsing away of oral bacteria and leftover particles of food, and the neutralization of bacterial acids. When there is not enough saliva present, the number of bacteria in the mouth increases, along with the smelly chemicals that these bacteria release. Also, food that is normally rinsed away may rot as it remains in the mouth for longer periods. 

Dry mouth is more prevalent among people who suffer from diabetes or Parkinson's disease. Additionally, it may occur as a side effect of certain medicines, such as chemotherapy drugs, antihistamines, and pain relievers. The condition may also stem from simple dehydration.

Your dentist can recommend products that can help treat dry mouth. Also, you should avoid dehydrating substances, such as caffeine and alcohol.

If you suffer from bad breath, contact the office of Dr. Bradley Cohn, D.D.S., to schedule an appointment.